With a third of the season and the most intense schedule behind us, the table is still very open especially with a very surprising final round prior to the international break.
KPV v FC Inter
Sacking Jarmo Korhonen gave at least initially and temporarily a positive effect to the newcomers who grabbed their first win for the season, beating Honka at Tapiola.
With three league sides changing coaches it will be interesting to see how each of these have used the international break to change things. KPV continued pressing aggressively under Niko Kalliokoski against Honka, who failed to pass their way out early in the game, leading to the game-winning 0-1 goal by Hendrik Helmke.
An early lead, or actually, a lead at all is not a situation KPV were used to this season. In fact, KPV had led only once before this season, when they lost a 0-1 lead at KuPS from the first half to a 3-1 defeat. With that said, there is barely anything to compare with KPV’s triumph against Honka.
Which makes me wonder – what if KPV had gotten an early lead in another match this season thanks to their kamikaze-like pressing? Had Jarmo Korhonen kept his job in that case?
Inter played a wild game against Ilves in the top match at Veritas. Stakes were high but it did not mean that we would see an extremely cautious Mexican standoff. Instead, Ilves were very Ilves, and Inter were a bit more aggressive than usually. My analysis could not have been more wrong as only the first half saw four goals.
The second half produced only the game-winner for Ilves, but it could have seen even more goals than the first 45 minutes. It was a great match between two top teams in the league which could have ended in any possible way but this time Ilves had the margins.
Niko Kalliokoski made an adjustment to KPV midfield by placing Isaac Shaze as a deep central midfielder in front of the defensive line. Although it certainly eases defending the central lane, there is still a huge gap between the deepest defensive line and the next one.
The discrepancy in quality between these two teams should be a reason enough to secure an away win. I cannot see the league’s weakest defense holding strong against the league’s strongest offense.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: FC Inter -0.50 at 2.020
VPS v KuPS
A 2-1 loss at HIFK meant that VPS dug themselves deep in the bottom of the table prior the international break. The situation became even less favorable as KPV grabbed their first win, equaling their rivals’ 6 points.
It would be easy to fall in the narrative that VPS simply lack the quality and that there are severe strategic flaws that cannot be fixed by the same coach. However, I refuse to take that stance, arguing that this side made it to the cup semifinals and looked at times very strong in the beginning of the season.
Nevertheless, the performance in Helsinki was so horrid that something obviously has to change from that. The box defending has been awful for a few games now, and the problem in offense is for the most the same that has been since about two years. That is, how to break low block defense. Petri Vuorinen’s VPS peaked against teams that pressed high, especially against superior sides as Brøndby IF and Olimpija Ljubljana.
Of course, VPS are not playing the same football they did two years ago, and a lot has changed. However, somehow the quick counter attacks and faster ball movement upwards has disappeared in favor of, well, whatever it is that we are seeing now.
KuPS had a rough time in the first half against SJK, partly because of the literal upwind that made SJK’s press a tougher bite to chew on. When they switched sides and SJK started to run out of juice, Rasmus Karjalainen got to several good chances, but something seems to be picking the man mentally. Otherwise KuPS chase for an equalizer was rather modest.
As Reuben Ayarna got hurt and with Issa Thiaw on the injury list from before, the very essential position in Honkavaara’s game plan is lacking quality. In addition to them, offensive players Ats Purje and Saku Savolainen are out as well as star striker Lucas Rangel. Although Petteri Pennanen is a great offensive midfielder, there has already been too much on his shoulders, and Karjalainen is not really having a good season for one reason and another, I think we will see a surprisingly disappointing result for the guests.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: VPS +0.50 at 1.960
HIFK v SJK
We are yet to see any action from the new Chinese owner of HIFK as we are still waiting for the Finnish transfer window to open. Quite surprisingly, and a bit disappointingly, there has been no rumors at all either. However, I have a hunch that at least one player will be leaving.
And that player is Tiquinho. Simply because he is too good for his team. He was once again great as HIFK beat a poor VPS, continuously being a threat to the visiting team. The Brazilian striker’s shot technique is excellent for Veikkausliiga, with only Rasmus Karjalainen coming to my mind as an equal in that position.
As I mentioned earlier, SJK beat KuPS at Savon Sanomat Arena thanks to a solid first half and a bit of luck. The pressing in the first half was situationally smart – a bit stupid in the longer run since the lads grew seemingly tired and risked conceding as the game matured – and in combination with the wind it made KuPS’ early build-up very challenging.
The defending on the own half of the pitch was also well-disciplined keeping KuPS on a safe distance. Penetrating SJK’s last defensive line was nearly impossible for KuPS, however, this was partially KuPS own poorness. Obviously, their injury situation affected a lot, but Honkavaara has been banging his head earlier this season, too, injuries or not.
So, defensively SJK made a pretty good game at Kuopio, but offensively there was nearly nothing to cheer for after the first 40 minutes. The goal was a bit lucky too, as Denys Olinyyk headed a deflected cross. Sure, a lucky goal this time from the Ukrainian, but it still does not take the point away, perhaps it even strengthens the issue, that SJK are far too dependent on Olinyyk.
Fatigue has been SJK’s running theme this season, but in this match, I think HIFK are in the risk zone. I see no favorites in this matchup, which is why I think SJK are overvalued.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: HIFK +0.25 at 1.740
Preview by: @konformisten.
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