April 22, 2017

Veikkausliiga Asian Handicap Preview – Saturday 22nd April

Will realism be the crucial factor in this year’s fight against relegation? As per usual, there are some relegation favorites among the experts, however, this year I’m confident that the bottom three is really destined to be far off even from mid-table safety. We’ll take a look at two of these sides.

PS Kemi v SJ

The northernmost league side, PS Kemi, head to their second year in the top tier. The second season after promotion is often titled as the true ultimatum whether the club sticks to the sweet taste of league football or the burning flames of Ykkönen. Right now, they find themselves in the purgatory, and it isn’t looking like St. Peter will be calling for Kemi.

Last year, SJK faced, in a way, a similar trial when they defended the league title. A successful season was followed by a failure, which led to reconstruction on organizational level. Lucky to them, the consequences of a failure weren’t as heavy as they would be for their hosts.

Kemi’s high odds for survival depend significantly on the heavy losses their squad experienced during the offseason. Swedish loanee Erik Törnros practically carried alone the Kings above the qualifying spot when he arrived in August, replacing Billy Ions who left for SJK. Additionally, midfielders Joona Veteli and Ryan Gillighan moved on for very different reasons, and basically the only two at least mediocre defensemen Zeljko Savic and David Bitsindou did not stay.

The replacing signings Kemi made aren’t at all of the same caliber, except for the two, still somewhat mysterious, defenders Abdoulie Mansally and Aubrey David. Kemi hadn’t a thing or two to say against HIFK, who are alongside JJK, the team Kemi should beat if they are to avoid relegation.

Sixten Boström needs some more time to operate his pieces in SJK as optimally as they can, which was evident against Ilves and FC Lahti. However, the derby against VPS showed how huge factor individual skills can have. Away at Kemi, they’ll do the job with or without a solid plan.

Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: SJK -0.5

VPS v KuPS

KuPS are one of the few teams that experienced a wind of change after the season, and they most definitely needed it. Owner Ari Lahti has provided substantial funding to his club – although really stupidly at the same time, since he hasn’t bothered too much on gathering sponsorships – which were all wasted under Marko Rajamäki’s coaching.

Jani Honkavaara, who was sacked from the relegation battling HIFK, took over the steering wheel, although he’s yet to prove his quality in Veikkausliiga. There’s no excuses for him in Kuopio, as the signings were made earlier than in almost any other team, not to forget the high quality of the incomers.

One of the biggest questions concerning KuPS was if set pieces would still be their lethal weapon. As many of the athletically highly talented players stayed in Kuopio, the efficiency was all left on Honkavaara’s responsibility. It’s still early to say, however, they did beat Inter, who aren’t made of the skinniest lads either, mainly thanks to stunning set pieces.

While their guests have played only one game so far, VPS have already three games behind them. The latest one was a morally great victory for the boys in black and white, as they turned a 2-1 halftime result to a 2-4 away win at Rovaniemi.

VPS have finally a fully fit squad, which gave result with a far more creative offense. However, their defense is still prone to cheap mistakes, something KuPS could take advantage of especially in the earlier mentioned set pieces. On home turf VPS rarely fail to score, and Steven Morrissey was simply magic against RoPS.

Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: BTS Yes

JJK v HJK

If PS Kemi felt tough departures during the offseason, JJK felt it even worse. A team that wasn’t among the promotion favorites just played the least worse season, to put it really, really simple. Now, imagine a squad that mediocre and remove about five of the key players. Not exactly how you’d want to return to Veikkausliiga.

There are, however, a handful – a tiny hand in this case, like a toddler’s – things that are in JJK’s favor against presumably HIFK and PS Kemi. First of all, the usual cliché of a promoted team’s ability to surprise. Now that we’ve got that rubbish said, let’s get to the point; JJK’s strength is their self-awareness. They know how weak squad they have, but they’re not either going to surrender to it.

Take Ilves as an example; should have been totally last, but self-awareness maximized the squad’s potential. Not that I’m saying they’ll be nearly as successful as Ilves, or that they’d have a chance against HJK, but this is the shot their best shot to make it.

HJK’s two triumphs of the season came in their home stadium, where artificial grass enables controlling the game. At Mariheamn they weren’t as prosperous as they drew 1-1. It’s not even nearly completely due to the real, natural grass in Mariehamn, which is still far from perfect, but it does make it harder for HJK.

Now, HJK are by all logic going to win this, and the question really is by how much. JJK did score twice in the first ten minutes against IFK Mariehamn, but the same trick won’t work on HJK. The pitch was three days prior to the game in such awful shape, that I might be exaggerating when I say 25% of the field was green. Probably even less was. Last year on a similar soil, HJK lost 3-0 at VPS. Get the hint?

Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: Under 2.75

Prices correct at time of writing.

By Petteri Räisänen – @konformisten from @FootballUtd

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