Ilves v FC Honka
Ilves continued HJK’s struggle by keeping another clean sheet, which in fact, was not a difficult task for Mika HIlander, since HJK could not get a single shot on goal. Jarkko Wiss recipe against HJK did not include any of the ingredients Riveiro used in Inter’s victory against the titleholders, as the Tampere side did not use man marking, but more of a very disciplined zonal defence.
Ilves did not either press aggressively on their hosts’ deep possession as Inter did, instead, the closest defender kept a safe distance from a yard-or-two distance, with two additional players eyeing the situation a few more yards away.
The collective defensive blue-collar work has been a huge success story so far for Ilves, who are still yet to concede a goal. With two games in hand, they trail only by one single point SJK and KuPS on top of the table. So far so good, but I do not think this will carry all the way to the end, as the top sides are still looking for their best form, which will be clearly superior to Ilves.
The offensive struggle has possibly gone somewhat in the limelight thanks to the otherwise good results, and especially the 0 conceded goals. Lauri Ala-Myllymäki and Paul Emile Tendeng are some very talented players, however, they are still far from their best offensive form. Ilves’ 4 goals this season have come against KPV (2), SJK (1), and FC Lahti (1).
The goal against SJK was a brilliant curly free kick by Ala-Myllymäki, so, with that said, when they have met defensively skilled teams like SJK, VPS (0-0), and HJK (0-0), Ilves really struggle to get to proper scoring chances.
Now, Honka might not be a defensively oriented or skilled side. It is, in my opinion, one of the few offensively-minded teams in the whole league this year. This also explains how Honka can collapse against the likes of IFK Mariehamn and HIFK.
Just like after the collapse at Mariehamn, I expect Honka to pick themselves up after the 2-0 loss at HIFK. Ilves got the better of them in cup quarterfinals, but I do see Honka travelling home with at least one point this time.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: FC Honka +0.25 at 1.710
FC Inter v RoPS
So, as I have already earlier in this preview commented a bit, and even more in the previous preview, Inter put up a great match home against HJK about a week ago. Despite a very early setback in the second match minute, Inter came back and past their opponents.
A mentally huge victory from a side, that is not exactly known for their mentality. A fascinating sidenote is how vocally disappointed and hungry for full three points Inter players were after a disappointing 3-2 loss to Honka before their HJK win.
In order to maintain that stability, it would be immensely precious for Inter to have Mika Ojala in as good form as he has been of late. His defensive marking against HJK was exceptional, and he truly was playing for his team. Ojala was the kind of leader we were expecting to see last season.
RoPS bagged a fairly easy win home against HIFK, who had travelled far having beaten Honka only a few days earlier. As expected, their guests had very little to come, as their win was of an exhausting fashion.
However, in this matchup, RoPS are in the opposite role. Now it is their turn travel nearly 1000 km with only a few days to rest. Similar to HIFK, RoPS have a narrow squad, that is still a bit short due to injuries, albeit Aleksandr Kokko made his return from bench against HIFK.
However, Kokko has been gone for almost a year and is probably still far from 100% match fitness. Although Agnaldo Moraes and Reguero made their return to starting eleven against HIFK, I still think Inter should have fairly easy task to find the weak spots of RoPS.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: FC Inter -0.50 at 1.900
HIFK v IFK Mariehamn
As I already mentioned, HIFK lost expectedly at RoPS after a great win against Honka. HIFK’s success has relied much on high and aggressive pressure with fast-paced possession.
At RoPS, it was evident that there was no energy really for neither of these. Additionally, moving the ball rapidly up the field was made an even harder task by RoPS, who lied quite deep defensively.
As their hosts had such a fairly simple task to strip HIFK from their basically only weapons, and HIFK’s narrow squad has virtually nothing to offer from the bench, it is no wonder that the reds left Lapland empty-handed.
It would be easy to simplify IFK Mariehamn’s loss to KuPS as them just bottling a 3-0 lead to 3-4. However, it was such an odd match, that I consider the events inexplicable.
To start with, IFK’s three-goal lead after the first half itself was quite weird. Mariehamn were all over the place, especially Aristote Mboma, who won the 1-0 penalty for his team, and scored a brace after that. All solo by the way. KuPS were in deep trouble with Wiklöf Holding Arena’s very poor conditioned pitch and could not barely create anything.
Then something as odd happened after the first half. KuPS scored a few lucky goals, looked mentally a lot tougher, and as Mariehamn’s poorly communicating defence conceded the equalizer, you could see how there was no mental opposition left in Mariehamn.
HIFK look no longer as bad as they did during the preseason, finding an identity that has been fruitful. However, the highly energetic style has little to offer for a team during a rough schedule and a squad that lacks rotation. Mariehamn’s solid season start has not been a slump, however, their last defeat was more of a slump. This should be a rather easy win for the away side.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: IFK Mariehamn -0.50 at 2.480
Preview by: @konformisten.
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