With five and a half rounds to go – HJK, Ilves, Lahti, and Inter have one game in hand – the podium race has narrowed to fewer options and Kemi are bound to stick dead last. Let’s see what we have in hand this Saturday.

KuPS v FC Honka

Friday’s focus will lie in Töölö, where HJK have their chance to practically secure the league title against RoPS but Saturday’s main match will be played in Kuopio at Savon Sanomat Arena.

Both teams are in a similar trend, gaining 10 points out of 15 possible in their last five matches. KuPS extended the contract of their head coach Jani Honkavaara earlier this week, although he has not yet proven his worth this season. Now is KuPS crucial chance to cruise past Honka and reclaim a podium position after a few months break.

Two of the top 3 goal scorers will clash in this hot matchup, KuPS’ Rasmus Karjalainen and Honka’s Macoumba Kandji rank also in the top 4 in expected goals in the whole league. There are some differences between the two, which also reflect the difference between the two clubs as well. Karjalainen’s shot map is hot all over the place, and he’s pretty good at it, too. He found the back of the net last round at Rovaniemi against RoPS, in a match where KuPS where firing like they were in war.

Mac Kandji, on the other hand, finds himself to great scoring positions and actually delivers par his xG value. While Kandji takes his shots closer to the net, there are, in fact, lads in Honka too, that like the wider range at times.

However, the main difference is that Honka tries to collectively and systematically get to better scoring positions, whereas KuPS style is a bit more hit-or-miss. So, was KuPS 1-1 draw a mere miracle for RoPS or a result of something else?

21 shots are a whole lot to take on for the defense, and about half of them were taken inside the box. That time, yes, I would say KuPS were unlucky, but I do not think they will press on Honka as aggressively. I do like Honka a lot for this value.

Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: FC Honka 0.50 at 1.800

Ilves v FC Inter

Ilves made a fairly easy trip to Vaasa, as they beat their hosts VPS by 1-2. Issa Thiaw gave the guests an early lead with a beautiful volley shot after a corner kick. Lauri Ala-Myllymäki’s 0-2 goal in the 18th minute was nearly as stunning, but it was not the only thing those two goals shared. VPS made a horrible job in the box defending crosses from their enemy. Neither scorers were obstructed in their shot attempts. What VPS countered with after that was merely pathetic, although they did reduce from the penalty spot to 1-2.

Inter, on the other hand, continued their negative trend just like Ilves’ hosts did. In this season’s last Turku derby, which lacked any proper chances, Daniel Kamy decided to do something incredibly stupid and offer Mika Ääritalo the winning goal on a silver plate.

The Nerazzurri of Turku were, once again, astonishingly harmless against TPS, and John Allen’s defensive rebuild has gone with the wind. Although TPS did not get to any better chances, neither did Inter so. The losing side had two shots from proper positions, the rest being mostly outside of the box. I guess losing Benjamin Källman was the whole world, in the end.

Ilves have not been exactly great this season, and every remaining match is a last chance to keep the hopes up for a podium finish. Lucky to them they will face a hopeless Inter before HJK visits them. A strong victory would not surprise me.

Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: Ilves -0-75 at 2.000

IFK Mariehamn v TPS Turku

Sunday offers us only one match, but lucky to us there is a lot in play. Both teams come from 1-0 victories and continue to fight for survival. One of these two, if not SJK then, will face the unpleasant favor of qualifying against Ykkönen’s runner-up.

IFK Mariehamn’s home victory over SJK last round reminded me of their earlier triumph at Wiklöf Holding Arena against the struggling team. It was another hard fought 1-0 win in late July, where the rain was pouring heavily and SJK were knocking their heads against a brick wall.

SJK took even more shots than KuPS at Rovaniemi, 22 in total, although only 5 on goal [insert that Wayne Gretzky quote]. Hilarious enough, Mariehamn had only one shot in total, which was Nazari’s 1-0 goal in the 19th minute. The glory days of league title are far away from the autonomous island, but boy do I love to see some hard-fighting football and completely undeserved wins at times.

TPS derby win was not exactly as undeserved, although a goalless draw would have been just. The victory was not of utmost importance solely due to the rivalry, but because of Mariehamn’s win over SJK, TPS were forced to keep the gap in one point.

Both sides have had their peaks and lows in the five recent matches, and they have been quite drastic. The positive results have often demanded a strong start with an early opening goal, and without that, the pace has fallen in the final 20 minutes at the latest.

I see a risk of both sides canceling out each other as it is a game of such importance. Earlier in the season, I could have seen Laurikainen gone on a bolder tactic, but now I think we will see two cautious sides. Nevertheless, if either side wins, I do not think we will see complete crush or an otherwise bonkers match.

Asian Total Goals Betting Recommendation: Under 2.50 goals at 1.850

Preview by: @konformisten of @FootballUtd.

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