Finnish top tier Veikkausliiga took a short summer break but is now back, despite the start of Euro 2016 in France. The break was timed well for several teams. Inter’s and Job Dragtsma’s paths parted earlier than planned, teams like VPS got time to rehabilitate injured players, and disorganized teams such as HIFK could rethink their strategies. The first third of the season was odd, as teams who’ll qualify for Europe in July had more games scheduled. Also, the fact that PS Kemi and KuPS hold the third and fourth spots in the table are errors that should be corrected as the season matures.
VPS v HJK
A dramatic 2-2 equalizer in the very last minute at Mariehamn gave VPS a highly valuable away point. Coach Petri Vuorinen has revolutionized Vepsu’s philosophy. Personal mistakes have cost the team a fair amount of points in the season, but so far relegation zone isn’t as close as last year.
For whatever reason – someone should seriously study this – HJK still struggle away from home. Their last fixture before the break was against KuPS who, once again, defended tightly and kept the visitors away from crucial scoring chances. I suppose the away problem isn’t that big of an issue, as long as the rest stink as bad as they do and your home form is really great.
Former Schalke 04 midfielder Anthony Annan is the only surely sidelined player for HJK. Center back Lum Rexhepi played for the Kosovan national team against Faroe Islands on Friday, and could also be out of this game. Fullbacks Jesper Engström and Veli Lampi are very unlikely to return, however they are expected to be fit rather soon.
HJK’s had rarely trouble against VPS, neither home nor away. Under Olli Huttunen the team from Vaasa pulled off both a home and an away win. Anyhow, these teams like more than often to change the numbers on the boards.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: Over 2.5 Goals at 2.28
Ilves v KuPS
These two classical football teams meet each other for the 45th time in the top tier, this time separated by two points (Ilves two games in hand though). It’s not only the old history between these two teams that fascinates me. In their recent history, that is Ilves’ return to the league after almost two decades break, the lynxes have beaten KuPS every single time with the smallest margin.
As the first third of the season is over, I think it’s fair to make some conclusions. One of them is the fact that Ilves most definitely aren’t going to be relegated this time either. So, after doubting rookie coach Jarkko Wiss and speculating how much first year’s luck had to do last year, here we are again; they are safe, really safe.
Owner Ari Lahti sure has a lot of money but there’s a limit where gambling becomes simply stupid (we all should know that very well, right?). His team KuPS made 825,000€ minus last year. Add that to the fairly similar amounts of the previous gazillion years he’s owned the team, it turns to a ridiculous amount of money. However, this time his strategy has paid off, so far. Coach Rajamäki had a complete squad only a week or two before the season premiere (!), good luck trying to teach the players any kind of a strategy in that time. So, naturally the season didn’t kick off too good, but now a strong defense and extraordinary set pieces has made KuPS climb possible.
KuPS goalie Johannes Kreidl kept his 6th straight clean sheet in their last game against HJK. Ilves offense is painfully dependent on one player, Emile Tendeng. I see absolutely no reason why there’d be more than one goal in this game.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: Under 1.5 Goals at 2.67
HIFK v PK-35 Vantaa
HIFK is not a total circus as their opponents are – we’ll get to them in the next paragraph – but are in a dire need of change. Coach Jani Honkavaara has started to show signs of frustration something their fans have too. Striker duo Juho Mäkelä-Pekka Sihvola was glamorized to be the most lethal attacking force in the league, but so far only the previous has lived to expectations (Mäkelä 5 goals, Sihvola only one). Last year’s tight-knit HIFK has been seen nowhere this year.
Now, let’s get to Shefki’s circus. Everyone knew that PK-35 would bring some action both on and off the field. To summarize the happenings in PK during their two months in league, they’ve had Njazi Kuqi suspended for 7 games for punching an opponent, Shefki Kuqi knocking off a camera, and the whole Latino crew exiting the team. Interesting enough, one of the Latinos, Pablo Couñago, is one of the club’s shareholders.
Captain and PK-35’s most important defensive piece Kim Raimi made his return finally against Inter in their second latest fixture. It was also the first match after assistant coach Riveiro’s & co’s departure, which turned out to a win. Not a too big achievement considering how low Inter were laying at that point.
Although Mäkelä and Sihvola should by all means be able to punish PK-35 severely in this game, they won’t, since a lot isn’t working for the home team. I’m expecting an even and heated match, but with a little offensive success.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: Under 2.5 Goals at 1.88
Prices correct at time of writing.
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