FC Lahti v VPS
As I wrote in the previous preview, VPS have paid a heavy toll for the offensive departures this offseason without replacing them basically at all. This was once again quite obvious in the 1-1 draw against SJK.
VPS had full control of the game for about an hour or so, but this team gives a lot away with inexperience. Chances were not executed, Jesse Öst made some brilliant saves in the opposition goal, and in the end, they ran out of juice.
Which has been thematic this season. The inexperience – or lack of skill – grows even more when VPS greats like Jerry Voutilainen or Sebastian Strandvall have gotten too exhausted. VPS lost the game completely around the 65th minute because key players were fatigued, the substitutions were not too great, and the opposition’s sub in Mehmet Hetemaj was the kind of sub VPS was in need of.
As I expected in the previous preview, Lahti’s luck ended as did their undefeated streak this season, and it did for a reason. Lahti’s defense had some trouble in keeping track of responsibilities, the foremost problem being midfield defense.
Lahti were as harmless as usual in offense, creating only a half-good chance for Erik Törnros from a set piece. Besides that, Lahti were barely a threat to Mika Hilander, who is yet to concede in Veikkausliiga 2019.
Lahti’s lucky streak in the beginning of the season will carry them fairly long for a fairly long time, as KPV and especially HIFK stink so badly. Their strength at the moment is their grittiness at home, which, to be honest, is not exactly a great foremost strength. However, they’ll meet a VPS that are better away than at home and are eager to grab their first win for the season.
I am still worried about VPS fatigue, which is why I will keep a reservation for an away draw for Vuorinen’s lads.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: VPS +0.25 at 1.960
SJK v KPV
SJK, who had defensively played very well prior to their first derby this season, were quite far from that form against VPS. Without suspended Dani Hatakka and Didier Boris Kadio in the defensive line and Mehmet Hetemaj starting on the bench due to a minor injury, SJK’s defensive work in the midfield was nearly chaotic.
When one of the midfielders left their position to press on VPS, the rest of the midfield merely reacted to it, creating a huge gap that often was used by the opposition. At times one of the center backs was forced to step up in the field to fill that gap, which only created another gap further down the pitch. Nevertheless, VPS utilized these flaws of their opponent only once, until a few major changes took place.
As Mehmet Hetemaj entered the pitch after the hour mark, SJK’s midfield was instantly significantly more united. Positioning worked a lot better, and their offensive movement improved perhaps even more. Of course, Hetemaj’s sub was not the only thing to alter the end of the game, but I will get back to that later in the preview.
Although the away team, it is almost as if KPV are playing home, since OmaSP is where they were forced to exile for the beginning of the season. In the previous round, which was their last home match at OmaSP, KPV put up a whole lot better fight than what the result indicates.
The boys in green created plenty of half-good scoring opportunities and even some proper chances, however, the finishing was for the most subpar, to express it kindly. Mariehamn took their lead from a questionable penalty call, and Robin Sid increased the lead to 2-0 in the first half thanks to incredibly lazy movement from KPV midfielder Hendrik Helmke.
Other than that, it was mostly KPV who had the ball in the offensive zone, and despite being down 2-0 already since the 34th minute, their defense neither ruptured nor did their offense depress. The final two goals by the visitors were just typical goals conceded in the very final minutes, as KPV attack extremely offensively.
Kadio and Hatakka will be back for the home team, but Hetemaj’s match condition is still unclear. I would expect him to start on the bench. KPV will play on a very familiar ground and have rested one more day than their hosts. KPV’s poor result from the previous match should be overlooked, however, their performance in that game should not. They might be left emptyhanded, once again, but in that case, only by a small margin.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: KPV +1.00 at 1.750
IFK Mariehamn v KuPS
So, IFK Mariehamn annihilated KPV at OmaSP 0-4 and to the surprise of many, including myself, cruise in the top of the table after 4 rounds. The two-goal lead after a mere half hour was perhaps undeserved – or at least the opening goal from a questionable penalty call was that – but then again, KPV did it a lot themselves again, albeit to a way lesser extent than earlier.
As I mentioned, IFK’s hosts created some proper scoring opportunities without exploiting them even once. Some of the blame goes to themselves, while actually only a bit to goalkeeper Oskari Forsman. Daniel Sjölund is by far the biggest reason IFK kept a clean sheet in this game. The veteran midfielder/centre half organizes the whole defence in such an elegant manner, it is no wonder that he has won Allsvenskan.
Sjölund was also exceptional with his own positioning, saving IFK Mariehamn twice from the goal line. Now, defense was all that IFK Mariehamn did in that match. Surely did they penetrate their hosts’ often so riskily high defensive line. 0-4 are a bit harsh numbers but expect it to be a commonality rather than narrow defeats for KPV.
KuPS did bounce back, as expected, from their awkward 0-3 loss home to Honka. However, their win at Rovaniemi was not exactly merited. While their hosts were perhaps even surprisingly defensively positioned, KuPS did not either react to their opposition.
Rasmus Karjalainen, who scored the game-winner, was left awfully often alone when KuPS had won the ball in their own defensive zone. They created absolutely nothing from the wide, which could be a positive signal of them losing the idiotic strategy of giving the ball to Murillo and hoping his cross hits home. But it did not really look like that either, since the chances created from central lanes were so few.
As the season is still so young, I am not sure how much I would put of IFK’s success on them surprising their opponents (i.e. poor scouting, preparation, and adaptation), and how much is skill and other factors. A fair share of their goals has come from set pieces, which I would imagine is no longer a secret around the league.
Thus, even though I do consider the hosts as a favourite, the amount of pure talent KuPS has in their starting eleven is so staggering that this game could end up either way. Goals though? Do not expect to see that many of. A physical KuPS should be able to defend set pieces, and all of IFK’s four goals at KPV came from quick transitions, something KPV are extremely vulnerable to, in contrast to KuPS.
Asian Total Goals Betting Recommendation: Under 2.50 goals at 2.190
Preview by: @konformisten.