Now that we have a few rounds behind us of Veikkausliiga season 2019, people have started noticing trends around the league, which is fair. The foremost trend is the defensive focus dominating the league, with many sides struggling in front.
Ilves v FC Lahti
Ilves is probably defensively the most impressive team thus far. Mika Hilander has kept a clean sheet in all three games so far, Ilves being the only team left to yet concede a goal.
I would, in fact, consider Ilves at the moment as the third strongest side in the league, although their trend would arguably indicate an even stronger position in rankings. However, they are still somewhat scarce offensively. Their 0-2 victory at KPV was really just a piece of cake, as their hosts tactics fits Wiss’ ideology like a glove. So, there’s that, and most recently there was another away victory at OmaSp Stadium against SJK.
That time Ilves did not get their victory as easily. SJK did not give away as openly chances for their guests, the winning goal coming from a sneaky free kick by Ilves’ young star Lauri Ala-Myllymäki. Otherwise Ilves were short on chances, until SJK had two lads sent off at the end of the game.
Ilves are in a more favorable position when they are not expected to dominate the possession, which naturally occurs more often away than home. In comparison to the two away victories, Ilves struggled a lot at Ratina against VPS who gave the initiative to their hosts.
Now, FC Lahti are an awful side who, as I wrote in the previous preview, have collected more points than what they actually deserve. They did it once again, as Teemu Kult equalized at Kisapuisto against Inter in the final five minutes. Sure, Inter kind of invited Lahti back into the game as the second half progressed, but man were Lahti lucky with that goal.
Lahti are, in fact, one of the few teams that does not know at all what they are doing in offense and have barely a hunch of what they do in defense. Maybe because they basically rebuilt the whole squad or maybe Sami Ristilä is just a coach with poor execution.
Anyhow, Lahti’s luck with points should end. And with luck I would expect that they should not deserve more than a draw from this game. There’s some value in a home win here, too, but considering how they struggled offensively against VPS, I think there is a chance for another scoreless home draw for Ilves.
Asian Total Goals Betting Recommendation: Under 1.75 goals at 2.620
VPS v SJK
VPS failure to beat newcomers KPV defined their season for me. While I see some tactical progress in VPS, and I think Vuorinen has grown a lot as a coach from last year, the squad suffered too big losses this offseason.
VPS clearly had the idea how to defeat KPV, but the execution lacked quality severely. I thought I saw some improvement from fullback Hindrek Ojamaa during the preseason, but as the league started, he’s been just as bad as earlier. Thanks to his idiotic pass, Hendrik Helmke could equalize the scores to 2-2. Otherwise there are a lot of young guys in the starting eleven, and I mean so many that it simply isn’t fixed with a lot of routine from veterans like Strandvall, Lahti, and Morrissey.
What this leads to is mistakes, and mistakes increase the risk to concede. Sure, both of KPV’s goals came from at least 20 yards distance, but VPS gave their guests far too many chances overall.
And then there’s the other side of the coin, that is, when Vuorinen’s improved playbook gets executed well by the team. There is a reason VPS are in the cup semi, and they have also shown their upside in league games, and that is also why I see VPS avoiding another loss to SJK.
So, yes, SJK have a strong record against VPS, and before their home game against Ilves on Monday, they were considered as heavy favorites to win the derby. And for some odd reason, the odds still favor the visitors.
SJK have been defensively impressive, meriting an away win at Inter and a home draw against HJK. But they are so incredibly lost in offense. SJK have relied awfully lot on center back Boris Kadio’s long passes, and now that he is suspended against VPS, it will be interesting to see how Eremenko will address Kadio’s absence. Dani Hatakka is also missing, which means that the guests have a very weak defensive line.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: VPS +0.25 at 1.820
RoPS v KuPS
Last year’s silver and bronze medalists have both started their season in less glamorous fashion. RoPS with 4 points from as many games (L-W-L-D), and KuPS with 3 points from 4 games (L-D-D-D).
Similar to VPS, RoPS have suffered from losing routine this offseason, and with many of the replacements attending the injury list, the squad has possibly been even weaker than VPS so far. In their most recent game, a loss at IFK Mariehamn, some of these weaknesses culminated.
The lack of offensive leadership was more obvious than ever, as Lucas Lingman, who is good but not exceptional, has a too big load to carry on his shoulders due to all the injuries the squad is suffering of. Additionally, albeit Mohamadou Sissoko is a good center back, his colleague Kalle Katz has still a lot to learn. Sissoko might not be the guy to train Katz up, which is why RoPS defensive line has been so vulnerable thus far.
Macedonian goalkeeper Damian Siskovski, who played last season in FC Lahti, has not either been a reliable replacement for the injured Spaniard Reguero. However, he made his way to the bench in Mariehamn, which could mean that he’s ready to play against KuPS.
KuPS lost 0-3 home against Honka in quite the similar fashion as Honka lost at IFK Mariehamn. KuPS were truly exceptionally bad, and I don’t think we will see another as poor game from Honkavaara’s lads this season. And, had Ilmari Niskanen not miraculously missed his chance when the game still stood only 0-1, it might have ended in a completely different outcome. I seriously think the man is cursed by some voodoo stuff.
Allow me to go back to the comparison between RoPS and VPS. In contrast to Petri Vuorinen, Toni Koskela has not improved his team’s tactical approach in the same extent. Although RoPS looked very dangerous in set pieces during preseason and in the season opener at KuPS, they were harmless against IFK Mariehamn. Also, RoPS are quite bad at defending set pieces, interestingly enough.
KuPS really bottled it in the season opener against RoPS by conceding an equalizer in the fourth injury minute from, yes of course, a set piece. Both sides have struggled in the beginning of the season, and unless Reguero makes a season debut and a huge one, I see KuPS as a strong favorite to turn their negative trend into a positive one.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: KuPS -0.50 at 2.260
Preview by: @konformisten.