HIFK v KPV
With the international break – and the regular season – being over, it is time for the final series – or whatever it is called – in Veikkausliiga. The title race is hotter than in a decade, the top teams in the bottom half series have a chance to qualify for Europe, and KPV and VPS are in a desperate fight for survival. Exciting times!
HIFK have widely been considered as this season’s biggest positive surprise. However, their form at the very end of the regular season set the mood a bit off. It had not been as bad, since they lost to Inter and Ilves and drew once against the former, had they not lost at VPS with a very poor performance.
Center back Tuuka Andberg, who was with Finland’s youth national squad during the break, had an awful game, leading to one conceded goal and risking a few more. However, the biggest issue was not one individual’s poor performance but the whole team’s dips inside the game.
The reds from Helsinki had a strong energetic start to the match, which is very typical for this year’s HIFK. They were also close to get rewarded for it a few times before Luis Henrique set in the penalty kick. However, after the opening goal, HIFK lost all control of the game until the last 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, KPV have suffered several very narrow defeats besides the victory at home against HJK, where the hosts were clearly better. KPV have even taken the lead in couple of losses but something is keeping this team from retaining their lead.
And I think that thing is still the same as earlier in the season, which is the lack of routine. Now as they will face the only side in Veikkausliiga that runs even more than themselves, routine and sense will overcome them.
Neither side are in a particularly fine form, which evens the odds. However, HIFK do the running better and with a lot more sense in it than KPV, which is why I favor the home side.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: HIFK -0.50 at 2.200
SJK v VPS
Speaking of forms – especially ill ones – SJK are in an absolutely atrocious form. Sacking Eremenko sr. has not exactly made the change owner Raimo Sarajärvi was hoping for. Instead, SJK are still struggling overall and seem to be in an even deeper pickle with scoring.
Which is where the mysterious disappearance of troublekid Moshtagh Yaghoubi from SJK’s practice sessions comes in as, well, mysterious. One explanation has been an illness, however, knowing the midfielder’s troublesome past, and the rumored liberties he had under Eremenko sr. I dare to doubt everything is alright here.
So, what does this mean for SJK and more specifically their scoring woes? While Yaghoubi has certainly at – most of the – times slowed down the pace after a positive transition unnecessarily much, he has been an offensive threat in every single game.
Against VPS he would be a crucial piece, since in my books SJK will have a tough time creating any solid chances inside the box. In earlier derbies it has been Yaghoubi’s long shots and Denys Olinyyk’s individual brilliance that has kept SJK in the game, and in fact, taken them all the way to full three points.
VPS woes are quite the contrary. While they have scored a respectable amount of goals for being the bottom team – more than SJK, in fact – they have conceded far too often. HIFK demonstrated how dangerous crosses can be, albeit they could not turn the crosses into goals, but what it comes to SJK and their threats in box, I would not be too worried for VPS.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: VPS +0.50 at 1.860
FC Inter v IFK Mariehamn
So far, we have only gone through teams in rather poor forms to absolutely catastrophic, so let us take a look at a team in great form – FC Inter. José Riveiro’s guys ended their regular season with an important victory at Tammela against Ilves, their title race rivals.
This was one of this season’s greatest games – top match where neither side was holding back and playing extra safely but going very clearly for the win. Ilves started with an insanely high and aggressive pressure, which Inter took care of surprisingly easily.
Now that Inter initiate the championship series top of the table, I dare to say that they are looking like the team they should with the quality and depth in the squad. Sure, I would like to see slightly better defending, so that the league’s best offense does not always have to score several times to secure the win.
In the first round of the championship series they will face an IFK Mariehamn who are in a quite unfavorable position, despite finding better form in the end of the regular season. Mariehamn are last in the top half table and have quite poor chances to make it to Europe.
Their chances look even slimmer when we take a look at their record against the rest of the teams in the top half. Generally, the islanders have beaten the bottom half teams while struggling severely against the top sides.
I struggle to find any arguments for IFK Mariehamn or against Inter here, thus I see the home team grabbing another victory and start their title race in the best possible way.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: FC Inter -0.50 at 1.840
Preview by: @konformisten.