SJK v FC Inter
This season’s two biggest underachievers meet at OmaSp stadium in Seinäjoki. Prior to last weekend’s cup final, the guests would have been viewed as the bigger failure so far, however, Inter grabbed a surprising and vital win against HJK.
In addition to the modest start of the season, these two clubs share a couple of other things. Both clubs are young – Inter being established 1990 and SJK as a merge of a couple local clubs as late as 2007 – and they have a wealthy and generous chairman, who can economically back up several failures.
History aside – or more like the lack of it, especially for the host team – the home team is facing a match that will, for the moment, decide its coach’s future. With two losses and four defeats from the seven first matches, Tommi Kautonen’s start as SJK coach has been catastrophic. With his side lying ninth – or third to last – in the table only two positions above Inter, Kautonen is expected to pull nothing less than a win…
… Which could be considered harsh. However, anyone who has any insight on Finnish football knows better. Despite Kautonen’s weird transfer window, recruiting basically only central midfielders leaving the sides heavily undermanned, SJK are favorites against Inter.
Inter’s charismatic – this is a heavily personal opinion, as I have a very weak spot for Italy – gaffer mister Piccareta saved his job as his side won the Finnish cup final against HJK last weekend. Some might say it was not beautiful, however, defending for a proper portion of the match and scoring from a counter late in the game, isn’t that beautiful? Nevertheless, Piccareta has thus far in the season managed to show some skill as a manager only against HJK.
The injury list for SJK is still scary. Although central midfielders Obed Malolo and Matti Klinga might not be that much missed due to the depth in that position, Jarkko Hurme’s and one of the league’s absolute best players Billy Ions’ absences most certainly hurts SJK. Meanwhile, Inter will be missing center back Tero Mäntylä, who had a key role in the cup final. Injuries aside, SJK has won six out of the seven last H2H-matches in Veikkausliiga, and Inter’s cup win was only a temporary solution. Coach Kautonen will get himself a pardon in this matchup, I believe.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: SJK -0.50 at 2.250
TPS v HJK
In the previous preview, I believed in TPS defense holding up against a chaotic Kemi. While following the match, I felt like I’d hit rock bottom. TPS defense was, by far, the best in last year’s Ykkönen, and the main reason the traditional club from Finland’s former capital gained its promotion back to Finland’s elite.
However, in the bottom battle against Kemi, we all should have or perhaps could finally admit that TPS defense is far from Veikkausliiga quality this season. In other words, it is going to be a long season for TPS…
… Unless coach Mika Laurikainen fixes it, and the time would be now. The issue for TPS has by no means been in the offense, considering that their eight goals this season have come in four of their seven games. Despite that, they have only one win.
As TPS struggle with their defense, their visitors and bitter historical rivals, HJK, are soiling their pants in offense. HJK are expected by the rest of the country, and not even a slight less by their own fans, to play dominant offensive football but the expectations might have hit the club too hard.
Coach Mika Lehkosuo – and possibly his assistant José Riviero, too – is seemingly way too fixated to an ideology. This has led to modest results ever since his success in Europa League, and at least now a negative atmosphere with Slovenian Filip Valencic in front of the schism.
Okay, that was, once again, a lot of negativity on HJK. However, take another look at the paragraphs on TPS. Let me remind you that VPS beat TPS at Veritas with a weak performance and that Kemi drew against TPS. Taking those two previous games under consideration, HJK should beat TPS easily, just due to the immense difference in talent.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: HJK -1.00 at 1.890
KuPS v IFK Mariehamn
As if overestimating TPS defense wasn’t enough last weekend, I made a mistake in overestimating Ilves physicality against Mariehamn. The absolutely idealess team played on their only idea, that is, giving the ball to the opponent and just wait for an opportunity to strike. Needless to say, Ilves is more uncomfortable with dominating the possession than when you met your prom date’s father.
So, what does that tell us about Mariehamn? Not much more than that they can beat teams that are characteristically counter-attacking, and that they can with some luck, grab a point against teams that know what to do with the ball. Congratulations Peter Lundberg, your team is not going to be relegated but you’re not getting that much more.
Although KuPS lost against league leaders RoPS last weekend, the club is, at the moment, giving so much stronger signals of a winning team than HJK, that I’m in awe. They did not play that poorly, creating one or two solid chances and still losing, however, coach Jani Honkavaara was visibly displeased with the performance, questioning how hard it can be to do a simple job…
… That simple job being dominating the ball possession and winning the game. For most of the season so far, KuPS has done a good job with both of those factors. However, against RoPS, it has been problematic. I do not know whether it depends on Koskela being the better coach in this matchup, or KuPS missing Murillo and Gabriel in the latest meeting, but what I’m confident about is that there are not many teams that can stop KuPS.
IFK Mariehamn away at Kuopio is not one of those teams. KuPS has already shown once earlier this season that they can make Mariehamn look like a Sunday league side. KuPS gets back Veikkausliiga’s best left fullback Luis Murillo back, and the Egyptian international Abdalla El Said will make his final appearance in Finland. Sounds like a recipe for a favorable home win to me.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: KuPS -0.75 at 1.780
See also our match preview for Sevilla v Alaves!