The World Cup in Russia has provided us with some highly entertaining football and some nerve-wracking penalties, but the greatest gesture from FIFA is the day off on Wednesday so that the whole World can focus on a full Veikkausliiga matchday.
VPS v TPS
There are a few clubs that have been struggling with injuries more or less half the season, including SJK, VPS, and most recently RoPS. For VPS the injury list is finally narrowing with Jesper Engström, Joonas Vahtera, and Steven Morrissey in the frontline returning to the pitch.
It is a much welcome fact, as the offense will receive diversity from Vahtera and Brazilian striker Douglas Cae, who finally has found his scoring instinct, matches well with the Jamaican artist Morrissey. Defensively, Engström brings stability and routine as a wingback. However, the central defense could have use of Swiss side FC Sion loanee Elhadji Ciss.
Nonetheless, VPS season so far has been as black and white as their kits. They have beaten all of the bottom side clubs except for SJK and struggled against the top teams. Last round at Kemi was no exception, where VPS took a 0-1 win.
Their fellow black and white Palloseura from Turku got as well to experience the rare taste of victory last weekend. In a highly crucial match, they beat IFK Mariehamn, who are next on the line to sack their coach.
Coach Mika Laurikainen went all-in for that match, as he took out a so-called B-squad – if TPS depth squad even has anything like that – at RoPS the round before. The risk was worth it, as TPS got both a much-valued scoreless draw in Rovaniemi and a home win against IFK.
It would not surprise me if Laurikainen repeats his trick by introducing a weaker starting eleven in Vaasa in order to have his best troops on the field the round after, when TPS are visited by PS Kemi. Add the fact that VPS has played well against bottom sides, it sounds like another victory for the home team.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: VPS -0.50 at 2.140
RoPS v Ilves
So, RoPS is one of the clubs that have been struggling with injuries, which has also been visible on the pitch. After a flamboyant start to the season with a historically strong defense and lots of wins, RoPS tempo has toned down. Whether it is because of a too ambitious and exhausting style of play or vice versa is a good question, but coach Toni Koskela has done well during the injury-plagued times, too.
A 2-2 draw at a smoking hot Honka would have sounded like a fairly good result, but in the light of the match events it ended up being a slight disappointment. Had this match been played earlier this season, I am confident RoPS would have travelled home with three points. Macoumba Kandji’s brilliance gave Honka the two goals, and RoPS midfielder Wato Kuaté is painfully alone with the ball at times, a lot due to the squad inconsistency.
Now, the injury list for RoPS looks like following: Hyvärinen, Väisänen, Hämäläinen, Agnaldo, Muinonen, and the latest addition Lassi Lappalainen. Most, if not all, of them, belong to the starting eleven, so it takes its obvious tolls.
Ilves made a rather awkward match home against Inter at Tammela. After having the game under full control for a good hour or so, in-subbed Ilari Mettälä gave the home team the opening goal. Just like in their previous match, this only led to a passive Ilves. Inter, who had had nothing to say before the game, were suddenly invited by a wide-open door to the game.
A missed injury-time penalty by Ilves meant a disappointing 1-1 draw for Ilves. It is painfully obvious how much the team misses both Reuben Ayarna and Paul Emile Tendeng. With the duo, Ilves would be guaranteed be in top 3. However, they are still a tough side to beat, and at a hurt RoPS, I think they will have at least a point.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: Ilves 0.25 at 1.810
SJK v FC Lahti
SJK played its best game in a while, probably the best since the 4-0 home win against TPS, when they drew 1-1 at KuPS. In all fairness, SJK should have won this one, as they created plenty of chances throughout the first 75 minutes. The club president Raimo Sarajärvi’s son, Jesse, scored, so I guess anything can happen in Veikkausliiga.
It was only in the last 15 minutes SJK lost the grip and KuPS were closer to a win after equalizing from the penalty spot. It says something about SJK’s mental state, that they could not optimize the control they had. Also, although one of the league’s best offensive players, Billy Ions, has returned, it has not exactly showed in the way the fans had hoped.
FC Lahti not only ducked a loss once again but took a sweet 2-1 victory home against bitter rivals HJK. There is something about Toni Korkeakunnas’ FC Lahti against Mika Lehkosuo’s HJK. They have lost only once in the previous five games, winning two in a row.
After five uninspiring draws, Lahti have now won two in a row in Veikkausliiga. We are talking about huge victories, too, as they beat KuPS before HJK. At the moment, Lahti look like the absolute strongest contender for RoPS for the runners-up position.
Together with RoPS, FC Lahti have conceded the least goals in Veikkausliiga. Put that against an SJK who have scored only more than bottom sides Kemi and TPS, with star striker Ions still off-form, I think we can safely expect another positive result for Korkeakunnas’ lads.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: Lahti 0.00 at 1.990