Honka v HJK
Honka took a huge win in the first round of the championship series, as they beat Ilves at Tammela. This did not only strengthen – or more accurately said keep alive – Honka’s chances in the podium race but also knocked Ilves’ position gravely in their hopes of winning the title.
Ilves tried to counter Honka who like to play very wide by spreading their defensive line across the whole width. A good thought but it was executed too broadly, creating gaps between the fullbacks and center backs. This was recognized very quickly by Honka, who utilized this opportunity already in the 12th minute by scoring the opening goal.
Honka’s defense led by two rather aggressively pressing strikers really messed up Ilves plans in the first half which resulted in zero chances. After some adjustments to the second half, Ilves got a bit more into the game, although mostly the shots they could create were rather harmless. Meanwhile, Honka continued putting pressure on Mika Hilander, and Borjas Martin sealed the deal with a brilliant chip over the Ilves goalkeeper.
Speaking of chances in the podium race, HJK pretty much lost all their chances as they were beaten at Savon Sanomat Arena by 1-0. When Toni Koskela was appointed as HJK’s new manager, I figured that fixing the defense was his biggest task to solve.
It was obviously too much too soon to require for their European campaign, however, I did think that HJK would save their defense in time to win the league title. Well, now the defense is an even bigger mess, and it is very clear that this team is not Toni Koskela’s.
HJK are a total mess and Honka are in a rather nice form. The hosts have a lot more left to play for in the championship series, however, HJK do tend to spark up for this rivalry. Nevertheless, the hosts are severly undervalued here.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: Honka +0.25 at 1.740
KPV v RoPS
Although the xG-statistics – presented by @oskarikarppinen – speak very favorably for KPV in light of their table position, which would put them in front of a few of the other teams in the bottom half of the table, there are other statistical facts that tell the ugly truth – KPV are awful.
Despite pressing immensely aggressively, KPV are dead last in winning the ball high up the pitch. They also concede goals inside the box more than any other side in the league, so is anything really working for this team? At least not set pieces, where they are heavily on minus.
Individual statistics tell an ugly version of KPV’s season as well. Both goalies rank in the bottom, Ville Koskimaa has the most errors leading to conceded goals, and other defenders rank also deep down. Ishmael Yartey is basically the only individual that is positively ranked according to InStat.
Now, Jani Uotinen has addressed these issues and revealed his thoughts in a broad interview to Österbottens Tidning. Sure, the gap between the defensive line and the rest of the defensive collective has narrowed, however, I feel like Uotinen is slightly too optimistic over the current state.
RoPS are not an impossible team to face, certainly not when they play away, where they have not won in six games. However, RoPS defense is a lot more stable than KPV’s and most certainly they have a lot better goalkeeper to rely on in Antonio Reguero. Scoring has been an issue for RoPS all season long, however, KPV’s crazy pressure might open enough chances for even this weak arsenal that RoPS have.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: RoPS +0.25 at 1.719
Ilves v FC Inter
As I shortly reviewed in the preview for Honka v HJK, Ilves suffered a very heavy loss at Tammela against Honka, which put them five points behind league leaders and their upcoming guests from Turku, FC Inter.
With other words, this match is of outmost importance for Ilves, who were for majority of the regular season top of the table together with Inter, or at times even alone. I think Inter will serve a similar kind of defensive challenge to Ilves as Honka, who tend to use the whole width of the pitch.
However, Inter has an additional threat in the central lanes, as Timo Furuholm is often combining together with either Mika Ojala or Filip Valencic cutting in from the flanks. Against Honka Ilves chose to lie most often rather low and avoided putting pressure before the halfline.
Against Inter I would expect Ilves going back to a more aggressive and high pressure, since they rely heavily on counter attacks. Interesting enough, I think Honka have struggled more with aggressive pressure than Inter this year, leading to costly errors from the defenders, so I do not completely understand that choice from Wiss.
Inter will surely face a challenge at Tammela, where they visited only two fixtures ago. That time there was not really a question of the better side, just like with Honka visiting Tammela.
I would like to conclude with a semi hot take: I think Ilves squad is simply too inexperienced to handle the pressure near the finishing line. Inter, on the other hand, have lots of experience and will likely battle with KuPS for the league title.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: FC Inter +0.25 at 1.750
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