FC Lahti v HIFK

The mysterious saga of Moshtagh Yaghoubi at SJK – or actually not being at SJK – saw its official end this Thursday, with the club informing that the parties had mutually terminated the midfielder’s contract. Not that he ever was that spectacular for SJK – scoring only once and giving one assist – as many expected but his exit does say something about the state of the club. More importantly, there really is no one to fill his role leading eventually to an even heavier offensive load on Denys Olinyyk.

With that said, SJK are, in my books, officially out of the top race in the relegation group. In other words, this is the match where one of the so-called relegation group champions faces the runner-up.

So, now to the actual analysis of these two teams, starting with the table toppers, FC Lahti. The home team took a fairly easy win as VPS guests last weekend, albeit their hosts were the ones to take the lead. VPS created only two chances in total, and although they were both of high quality, Lahti’s defense held.

Offensively Lahti were clearly superior their opponents, who are currently struggling big time with injuries. Lahti could have scored once more, and to be honest, I would not have expected anything less than two goals against such a weakly formed defensive line. With that said, a lot of Lahti’s offensive success was due to the opposition backline being so weak.

Against HIFK they will face a lot more experienced and physically stronger defense, which will not open up as easily and struggle against a target striker like Erik Törnros.

I favor the guests in this matchup, however, knowing how Lahti tend to find a goal somehow, no matter how awful their offensive production is, I see more of a chance for a low-scoring game.

Asian Total Goals Betting Recommendation: Under 2.50 goals at 1.790

FC Inter v FC Honka

After beating Ilves at Tammela 3 weeks earlier by 0-1, Inter went back to Tampere only to lose by 1-0, very deservedly so, too. These two matches have been the absolute pinnacle of this Veikkausliiga season for me, and among my favorite matches this entire decade.

I was surprised how easily Inter penetrated Ilves defense early in the first meeting at Tammela, surpassing the intense Ilves pressure with rather little effort. This second time at Tammela, however, Jarkko Wiss beat his colleague on the other side by miles. Ilves found gaps in Inter’s defense in very similar manner as their guests did in the earlier matchup.

Meanwhile, defensively Ilves really stripped off Inter from their offensive threats. Filip Valencic barely touched the ball in the last third of the pitch, and Inter’s best chance came from a counter-attack. Countering is not, per se, unusual for Inter, however, their inability to create anything significant otherwise was exceptional. Goalkeeper Henrik Moisander was both keeping his team alive, and the unlucky soldier, as his perilous boxing led to the winning goal.

Honka were completely overrun by HJK at Tapiola in the first half. Their guests put well-executed pressure on the defensive line ­– I am astonished by how every single team is not doing this, considering how so many have exhibited how vulnerable Honka’s defenders are under pressure – which hindered Honka from creating basically anything. Demba Savage and Borjas Martin were so lonely up top that they might as well have sung ballads when they received the ball.

The second half was completely different, where Honka surpassed HJK’s lapsed pressure. Once they got the whole team up front, Honka started creating well enough chances to turn the tide.

Inter should be able, especially with such a good coach, to find gaps in Honka’s defense and utilize the vulnerabilities there. On the other hand, Honka are excellent at finding gaps wherever they exist in opposition lines.

Asian Total Goals Betting Recommendation: Over 2.50 goals at 1.890

HJK v IFK Mariehamn

So, HJK looked like they really wanted to keep their dignity at some level in the first half against Honka. Their offensive work is at a respectable level, although still far from the expected. Despite Honka’s semi-low block stopping them from entering the box, HJK’s insane arsenal from distance gave them enough opportunities to take the lead.

Then in the second half we saw a perfect exhibition of why HJK’s season is so underwhelming. The defensive work on their own half of the pitch is so incredibly messy and far from a collective harmony, that this boat is leaking worse than the Titanic.

This is by far HJK’s worst season this decade. Although they have failed to win the title a few times earlier in the past 9 years with a superior budget, this year’s performance is quite obviously far less dependent on coaching. Instead, the failures lie clearly in player recruitment and other directional decisions.

After an excellent season in Polish Ekstraklasa, many saw Petteri Forsell as the profile signing that would boost up HJK’s campaign and keep their hopes up for a league title. Easy for me to say in hindsight but what a stupid and unnecessary signing. The offensive midfielder / false 9 is so incredibly restricted in a very specific role which is nothing you get much help of in the last third of the season.

Although IFK Mariehamn had from the very beginning of the championship group to play for, they put up a pretty solid fight against KuPS at Wiklöf Holding Arena. I would see two reasons for that. Firstly, IFK Mariehamn are a physical side that can match KuPS play better than most of the others. Secondly, the pitch in Mariehamn was in awful shape, and as KuPS play on turf, it gave them an advantage.

Eventually KuPS, who are in their traditional super Fall-form, took a deserved win. Now IFK Mariehamn have even less to play for but I doubt that makes any difference in their game. In the end, they have never won at HJK, and I would be surprised if they even got a draw from there. No matter how chaotic HJK are.

Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: HJK -0.50 at 1.780

Preview by: @konformisten.

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