HJK v Ilves

HJK’s start to the season has been catastrophic, and that is not a hyperbole. The titleholders have won only two of their six first games, and the trend is actually only getting worse. After starting with two wins, one of which was a home victory against Inter, HJK have drawn thrice and got humiliated in the previous round at Inter by 4-1.

HJK took an extremely early lead thanks to throw-in specialist Daniel O’Shaughnessy, however, their hosts exhibited after that very disciplined defending, making their guests struggle a lot to pass even the first defensive line.

In short, José Riveiro had learned from his flaws in the season opener at HJK, creating a successful defensive plan which also gave the equalizer quite soon after the opening goal. Now, the efficiency of Inter’s defence is worrisome for HJK.

The assistant coach Jani Sarajärvi is a name you might recognize as VPS previous assistant coach. The University of Lisbon graduate has one of the most recognizable philosophies in the whole nation, and there are plenty of similarities with VPS 2017. That team sure was successful, until nearly every single opposition had learned how to keep them from breaking the second or even the first defensive line.

I do not expect Wiss to copy exactly Riveiro’s defensive schemes, but it would be foolish not to take some of the most efficient elements to his own use. Mika Ojala’s man marking on Kaan Kairinen was fascinating to follow, I could swear that their heat maps would be mirror images. Additionally, forcing HJK to build up through O’Shaughnessy instead of more experienced and ball comfortable Rafinha while guarding aggressively left wingback Eldeson was a nice touch.

Something that says loads about how poor HJK’s season start has been, is their negative(!) shot difference. The fact that even their rivals HIFK have a better difference is quite something.

Meanwhile, Ilves are the only undefeated side left in Veikkausliiga 2019. Sure, the lack of squad depth will keep them from going all the way for the league title, but for this matchup, they have a good rest behind them, which cannot be ignored. HJK are not often beaten on home turf, but at the same time, the struggle is real and so have Ilves been thus far.

Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: Ilves +0.50 at 1.910

RoPS v HIFK

RoPS are another team that has rested well for this round. And just like Ilves, with an already thin squad that is also battling with injuries and illnesses, the rest is much appreciated.

A week ago, RoPS hosted KuPS with an immensely weakened starting eleven that only went worse as Sergio Llamas got hurt after the half-hour mark. Ölander, Jäntti, Kaukua, Rahimi is not exactly a frightening offensive quartet, and seemingly not a very cohesive one either. Lucas Lingman was left frighteningly alone in RoPS possession, but at least they defended rather well.

Meanwhile, HIFK have been stirring things up of lately. First, they drew 1-1 in the Helsinki derby against HJK, being nearly the dominant side in the heated rivalry. The hot form continued as they beat Honka by 2-0, with quite the different game plan.

Norwegian gaffer Tor Thodesen made his lads press very aggressively on Honka who were caught completely off guard. Although the press was at times as risky as Jarmo Korhonen’s in KPV, their guests never really got to abuse the openings created by the pressure.

However, HIFK’s goals were a bit lucky. The first one certainly, where Joel Matsson’s cross from a distant free-kick curled all the way in. The second goal was a beauty by Norwegian youngster Jakob Dunsby, who sure has been surprisingly good and improved game by game, but passing through four opponents happens quite seldom.

HIFK have so far used only 13 players this season, and with their last game being earlier this week with over 1000 km to travel to Rovaniemi, I see a huge advantage for the hosts. RoPS should be getting some guys back from the sickbed, too.

Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: RoPS -0.25 at 1.970

FC Lahti v SJK

The story went on last round as FC Lahti once again avoided a loss undeservedly. And once again it was Josu who salvaged Lahti with a screamer. VPS gave their hosts the initiative with possession, which was the tactically correct choice from Vuorinen.

Because besides Josu’s long shots, FC Lahti has very little to come within the offence. There is so little excitement both what it comes to the squad and Sami Ristilä’s tactical choices. Josu’s companion on the right flank, fullback Coubronne is at times flashy sticking up while Josu cuts in, and Gaël Etock could be something, but has yet shown very little.

It is not that Lahti are defensively exciting either. VPS broke through a few times and should have scored at least once more from the poor reaction to negative transitions by Lahti.

SJK, on the other hand, grabbed another win and took the pole position in Veikkausliiga table by beating KPV 1-0 on home turf. The win came in the end a lot harder than what it could have.

In the first half of an eventful match, SJK was offensively pressing their opponent’s box, albeit never really creating that great chances. Quantity did not exceed quality this time, and the energetic first half gave no result for the hosts.

Seemingly a bit exhausted from the momentous first three quarters of an hour, SJK allowed their guests to enter the match more freely. However, KPV really proved the point in this game, that they are hopeless under Jarmo Korhonen. Sure, they created one good chance from a quick positive transition, but that was it.

Quality in scoring chances exceeded quantity as Batista finally found the net for SJK with less than 10 minutes left on the clock. SJK got their deserved win although unnecessarily late. Still, there are clear signs that SJK are doing things right, whereas FC Lahti are doing very few, if any, things right.

Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: SJK DNB at 1.751

Preview by: @konformisten.

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