HIFK v RoPS
The continuation series finishes this weekend, and there is still a lot to play for, although the relegation positions were decided already before the international break. The title will be decided in Turku between Inter and KuPS, and the setup – however it is going to work, I have no idea – for the European qualification is also up for grabs.
HIFK’s fine Fall form continued in Vaasa as they sealed their hosts fate in the relegation battle. Tiquinho made an excellent performance – numerically – as he scored a hat-trick for the guests. As I expected, HIFK found it rather easy to punish VPS sloppy defending.
Especially the final goal was a particularly good example of how well HIFK react to positive transitions – although it is only reasonable to take into account how desperate VPS situation was, forced to seek for a winning goal – something they have been good at all year.
Now they will face a RoPS whose continuation series has been a tragedy. Only their two last games, against a very poor VPS with a long injury list, and an even more tragical SJK, saved them from relegation qualification.
So, with no risk to be relegated and no chances to advance to the European qualification, what is there for RoPS? Absolutely nothing, which weighs heavily in these late-season games. I do not think that there are that many players in RoPS squad that are particularly needy to prove themselves for the upcoming season, more likely they are interested to avoid unnecessary injuries.
HIFK, on the other hand, would like to finish the relegation group stage by winning their group and securing a better position for the European qualification, with FC Lahti being only one point behind them.
HIFK and RoPS have played very even matches this year, respective teams winning once by 1-0 on home turf. I see the home team as clear favorites here, and this time I would not be surprised if they took a win with a bigger margin.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: HIFK -0.50 at 2.000
SJK v FC Lahti
Even though VPS will finish dead last and were never really that close to escape the bottom of the table, I declare SJK as the moral losers of the relegation group stage. Since firing Alexey Eremenko sr., SJK have not won a single game. Instead, under Brian Page they have drawn twice and lost five times.
Team captain and Estonian international Mihkel Aksalu will leave the club after serving SJK since 2013, and I expect the list of departures to grow exponentially as the season ends. So, just like RoPS, SJK have absolutely nothing to play for, and I think there is even less will for players to prove themselves. There has been absolutely no fighting spirit in this squad for the past few months. Why would there suddenly be now?
In this sense, this matchup is very similar to the one in Helsinki. FC Lahti have, just like HIFK, still plenty to play for, as they strive to pass the Reds to win the relegation group.
Sure, Lahti hade complete meltdown home against KPV after leading after the half-hour mark, eventually losing 1-4. But this KPV has been offensively in an incredible flow state for the past fixtures, and Lahti’s defense has not exactly been the reason they have been so comfortably far from relegation.
It is the rough and rowdy spirit – which SJK completely lacks – that has kept them hanging in and being most often a very uncomfortable opponent to face. Now, their strikers are still really poor like I have said all season long, however, there is some offensive excitement on the wings, especially in Finland youth international Jasin Assehnoun, and in the midfield, mostly in form of Josue.
SJK have scored twice in the 7 games under Brian Page. Scoring was already an issue under Eremenko sr., and it has arguably only worsened since his exit. I really do not see why Lahti would lose.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: FC Lahti DNB at 2.140
FC Honka v IFK Mariehamn
Honka have been in an extremely fine form the entire championship group stage, winning four games before drawing 1-1 at KuPS and giving Inter a chance to rob the Kuopio side from the title.
That was also only the second goal conceded by Honka in the championship group stage, the first one coming against HJK in the so called metro derby. Too bad for Honka that in this new league format a third position will not grant automatically a spot in the Europa League qualifications next year, instead they will have to play in another playoff series.
To get as optimal position for the playoffs, Honka need a win here. Ilves are tied in points but have a worse goal difference and lost to Honka, whichever rule is decisive, a win here ensures Honka a third place.
IFK Mariehamn, on the other hand, have been as bad as expected in the championship group stage. Their initial position was already quite lousy, with a significant margin to the significant positions. So far, their only point came in the previous round when they drew 2-2 against Ilves.
With that said, IFK Mariehamn are closer to the same category as SJK and RoPS than the three other teams in this preview, despite IFK still having a chance to qualify for UEL.
Honka are favored here and for a good reason. IFK may hang along for the first hour or so, but they will eventually grow tired, like they have usually done this year.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: Honka -0.5 at 1.641
Preview by: @konformisten.
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