‘Tis the season. Spring should be here, but it’s not as per tradition. Snow is still dominating in several league arenas, but Veikkausliiga will start no matter what. HJK are again huge favorites, perhaps bigger than in a couple of years. KuPS are the obvious choice as runner-ups, but after that, there’s a lot of questions to be answered. SJK has again invested a lot, but a questionable choice of coach in Tommi Kautonen leaves a lot of us skeptic. The relegation battle is more open than the two previous years. I don’t know what to expect of this season, and I don’t know if I like that.
VPS v FC Inter
The season kicks off in Vaasa at Elisa stadium, where both clubs are seeking for a redemptive season 2018. VPS previous season was like a jolly dance scene from a musical until late July, when they started a 14 games long winless run.
Meanwhile, Inter’s season was doomed to be a useless experiment with Shefki Kuqi as their head coach. It was just another season wasted on pondering how to move on from Job Dragtsma’s era. Genoa-based Fabrizio Piccareta took over too late to save the season.
Both squads are quite the revamped from last year. Inter got rid of some seriously rotten apples, including Julien Faubert and Shefki’s brother Njazi Kuqi. Experienced and expensive downshifting players were traded for younger, mostly Finnish talents. Inter radiate of excitement and hope for the incoming season.
Although a rather large exchange in the squad, the same cannot be said about VPS. The depressing end of last season traumatized the team and has clearly left traces of anxiety in those, who remained in the club.
VPS are missing key offensive players in Steven Morrissey and Joonas Vahtera. Although Brazilian newcomer Douglas Cae made an immense preseason, scoring 8 goals in 6 cup games, the rest of the squad are quite helpless. Marko Meerits is a shaky goalkeeper, and it was simply bizarre that VPS chose to extend his contract.
Inter’s had a strong preseason with their new formation 3-5-2, which has been both defensively and offensively a success. Finland’s next top striker Benjamin Källman is finally getting the chance he has deserved for a good time, and he has also made good use of it.
Inter are heavily undervalued in this matchup. With key players sidelined for the home side and a new dawn in the Inter horizon, I recommend an away favoring bet. Also, if you find a bet on Veikkausliiga top scorer 2018, Benjamin Källman wouldn’t be a bad idea to put your money on.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: FC Inter DNB at 1.970
FC Lahti v TPS
Lahti made a surprisingly good Veikkausliiga season in 2017. Toni Korkeakunnas was supposed to be out of ideas, but a ridiculously uninspiring midtable ensured Lahti a narrow 4th place and a spot for Europa League qualifications. A lot was to thank Zenith St. Petersburg loanee Alexandr Vasyutin, who was undeniably the best goalkeeper in Veikkausliiga 2017.
Macedonian striker Marko Simonovski was also a crucial piece of last season’s success. With an elite goalkeeper and a fantastic offensive trio, Lahti could grab enough points for a solid finish. However, both Simonovski and Vasyutin among others are gone.
Promotees TPS is a media favorite to finish dead last. Although they could keep center back Miro Tenho despite lucrative offers from several league rivals, are TPS facing a difficult task to survive with a by far league-lowest budget and a gently put modest squad?
As profile signing Tomas Hradecky, Eintracht Frankfurt goalkeeper Lukas’ brother, snapped his heel during the preseason, youngster Onni Valakari gets a huge amount of responsibility on his shoulders. Additionally, Canadian goalie Jonathan Viscosi must show doubters that he belongs to Veikkausliiga.
Lahti’s preseason was somewhat of a bumpy ride, and their final training match against KTP left a bit more to hope for. New Macedonian goalkeeper Damjan Siskovski had a rough time in the cup-tie against second-tier FC Haka and has yet some to prove.
Nevertheless, Lahti is a clear favorite here. Mika Laurikainen is an excellent gaffer, but a coach can only do so much with humble resources.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: FC Lahti -0.25 at 1.621
KuPS v Honka
With a longed finish on the podium for the first time since 2010, KuPS had finally fulfilled its potential. A second place in the table, although only with goal difference over Ilves, gave the Kuopio team a confidence boost for this season. It was most certainly a sign of relief for both the club owner Ari Lahti and head coach Jani Honkavaara, whose new job at KuPS was more or less a now-or-never opportunity for success.
KuPS lost some key players during the offseason. Elite center back Nikko Boxall earned a transfer to Danish side Viborg, Nigerian power-striker Gbolahan Salami’s family was denied a visa to Finland and couldn’t, understandably, stand the situation. Wingback Tuomas Rannankari moved to Ilves.
However, with Lahti’s money and a solid finish, KuPS made some fine recruits. Kemi’s promising Rasmus Karjalainen gets his chance to take the next step in his career, and defender Henri Toivomäki returned to Finland from Norway. Additionally, KuPS signed some foreign players. Although they are for us Finns anonymous, KuPS are well-recognized for scouting properly.
Honka is the second newcomer for this season. Despite finishing second after TPS, beating HIFK in the qualifications, Honka is the team with bigger budget and bigger expectations for this season.
Coach Vesa Vasara has gathered a squad consisting of former PK-35 Vantaa players and other lads with ties to the Helsinki region. Although the squad isn’t full of star players, it’s a stable squad to make a fine finish above the relegation zone. Honka put up a fair fight against HJK in the cup semifinal, losing 2-1. The Espoo side was close to an equalizer in the final minutes, but some bad nerves and bad luck sent the reigning champions to the final.
Nevertheless, KuPS have the physique and skill to run over Honka in the premiere. The odds for the home side might be sinking fast, so make sure you place your bet soon.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: KuPS -0.5 at 1.813
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