Just as Saturday’s bronze match between Belgium and England has ended, pure football class will continue in form of three Veikkausliiga fixtures. We have two clear favorites and one very equally sided match ahead of us. Let’s see what we can get out of these.>
HJK Helsinki v TPS Turku
The fans of the glorious HJK were awaiting signings before the registration for Champions League qualifiers was sent in, and they got them. However, it was quite the anticlimax.
The only addition they made before the deadline was fullback Mikko Sumusalo, who has spent his latest years in German lower divisions. No one really knows how good he is nowadays, and although there was a need for a backup for Juha Pirinen, Sumusalo was not an impressive signing by HJK.
The reigning champions started their European campaign at Faroe Islands by beating their hosts Vikingur by 1-2. Again, nothing more than a win for HJK, just like it has been several times this season.
Bottom side TPS had a couple intensive weeks, where gaffer Mika Laurikainen decided to play a risky game. He rested his best players away at top teams RoPS and VPS in order to have a fresh optimal starting eleven against relegation rivals IFK Mariehamn and PS Kemi home at Veritas.
It was not beautiful, but it was worth the risk. TPS won both Mariehamn and Kemi, climbing up above the relegation zone. As Kemi are spiraling downwards, it looks like TPS are rather safe from a direct relegation.
TPS have not stood a chance against top sides, save for KuPS when their poor period started. At HJK they will start with their best side, as there is no reason for rest. Thanks to that fact, and HJK being in the midst of Champions League qualifications, I expect TPS to lose with pride.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: TPS Turku 1.75 at 1.820
Inter Turku v SJK
Inter lost one of its few players who can honestly be proud of their season so far, Ivan Sesar, to Romania. The midfielder left a gap in the central position, so Inter decided to fill that space with… Julian Guevara from Kemi.
It is a weird signing that says a whole lot about the “new” Inter. They were supposed to start a new era in Turku by investing in Finnish and homegrown talents, but now that Piccareta left, it looks like we are back in square one.
Nonetheless, Inter managed to grab an away win at Lahti, who had been nearly impossible to beat this year. However, Lahti are heavily off-form, as they lost a round earlier to SJK after a really poor performance. Lahti’s rough ride continued in Europa League qualifiers, as they lost 3-0 at home to an Icelandic side. I guess that says something about both Inter’s and SJK’s victories over Lahti.
As SJK are not playing in Europe, they are in no hurry to strengthen their squad. It is also questionable whether there is any point to do that this year, since the top three is out of reach, but with their owner you just never know.
At this point, I think it is more of a blessing to not shake up the squad, as coach Eremenko has finally found a positive streak after taking over Tommi Kautonen’s post. SJK were also better against RoPS, whom they beat last round, which puts SJK as slight favorites in my opinion in this matchup.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: SJK 0.25 at 1.930
PS Kemi v FC Honka
The perennial shitshow PS Kemi – thanks @Minor_LS for coining that – is focused only on surviving. And I mean surviving as in not going bankrupt, that is, avoiding relegation is secondary.
After firing Jari Åhman, who coached the club all the way from the third tier to Veikkausliiga, the club has prepared for a new era by letting their few solid players go for a small – probably negligible – transfer sum abroads or to other league clubs. According to rumors, Åhman was sacked because the club board did not like him announcing mid-season that this would be his last in Kemi.
His replacement is not a much better story, as it is confirmed more than a rumor. Scottish David Hannah was signed as a sports director in January, without the rest of the staff knowing of his appointment until he took over as head coach. This also led to a good portion of the staff resigning. A perennial shitshow.
Top team Honka was one of the sides in one of this Veikkausliiga season’s absolutely best matches, what it comes to tactics. Unfortunate to them, they were the losing side as Petri Vuorinen and his VPS outsmarted Vesa Vasara’s Honka.
Vuorinen knew how to keep Honka from creating proper chances, although the xG was more even than the actual result 0-1. Kemi should not stand a chance, especially considering that they sold their starting goalkeeper Oskari Forsman to FC Lahti – still unsure why they spent money on him – and their backup goalkeeper is so bad he should not play in the second tier either.
The pitch at Sauvosaari is in fine form in July, and Honka are used to natural grass at home, too. If Kandji does not find the net again, some other guys surely will. There is one clear favorite for a good reason, and they should beat Kemi by a good margin.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: FC Honka -1.00 at 2.260