The title race was up for grabs last round as VPS hosted JJK and an ill-formed HJK tried to keep the distance by beating Kemi. HJK took a firmer grip on the pole position, whereas VPS made their worst performance since their last defeat from two months ago. Not that 8 points are a huge gap, but VPS 1-1 draw versus JJK indicated that VPS, perhaps, after all, isn’t ready for a league title yet.
HJK v HIFK
Although Macedonian football is on the rise and being knocked out by a well-coached Shkëndija per se is nothing to be ashamed of, the way HJK performed throughout their European campaign was just another embarrassing couple of rounds for Lehkosuo.
Although Akseli Pelvas has improved significantly since star striker Alfredo Morelos’ departure to the blue side of Glasgow, it’s not enough to fill in the shoes of the Colombian. El Bufalo could score an early goal, allowing HJK to play as poorly as they’ve done lately, and it didn’t matter. 1-0 was enough. Pelvas, however, does not possess that ability.
Defender Hannu Patronen said that HJK should be such a strong home team, that opponents fear to visit Telia 5G Arena. Uhem, that’s what everyone has been saying for years now. Ever since opponents haven’t been fearful in Töölö.
And that’s exactly the reason why HJK are in my opinion hugely overvalued in Stadin derby. HJK still have only one win from seven Veikkausliiga derbies, and it was a tight one, too (2-1). I can’t see why and how HJK would beat HIFK by a bigger margin.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: HIFK +1.5 at 1.820
JJK v RoPS
Although I criticized VPS performance in their 1-1 home draw against JJK, it’s not synonymous with a positive match from JJK. VPS had a handful of golden scoring chances, but a post here and terrible finishing form kept the score flattering for JJK.
Estonian fullback Hindrek Ojamaa can’t be a bad addition to the otherwise horrible defensive line of JJK, but Sasha Jovovic needs to prove himself as a proper Veikkausliiga striker. Especially since it’s been a while since JJK scored through a proper attack. Gaël Etock’s equalizer in Vaasa was thanks to a ludicrous miss by a VPS defender.
On the other hand, they could put enough pressure on VPS, who are rather used to it, that Etock could get that chance. Additionally, on home soil, JJK should be offensively more active than in Vaasa, where they – understandably so – laid a huge focus on defense.
As the author of Soccermatics, David Sumpter, wrote – a team should play extremely defensively only if the opponent is at least twice as likely to win. Which RoPS aren’t according to the bookies.
Therefore, if JJK gaffer Juha Pasoja has any sense, JJK will be more active against RoPS, not only for the previously mentioned reason but also because they desperately need a second win for the season. This should open the game well enough, giving RoPS also an opportunity to occasionally counter, which they love to do.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: Over 2.5 at 1.990
SJK v KuPS
I wrote in the previous preview that I can’t see SJK gaining a top 4 finish this season. And I’m already starting to regret it. Not that they’ve improved immensely, more because of others being so incredibly uninspiring.
KuPS is most definitely at the moment one of those clubs, though worth to mention, it’s not exactly surprising. However, they could be on their way out of the bad form. Honkavaara’s lads are unbeaten in three games, which of the wins against HIFK and Kemi were very much solid performances. Then again, the 2-2 draw against FC Lahti was more of the kind, which would indicate an unstable form.
SJK is yet to find their way-to-go this season. And it’s no wonder as they’ve had three coaches in five months and over a dozen new signings. Two of their three most recent ones would normally be strong additions to the squad, but since the problems lie elsewhere than the squad, it’s hard to say what kind of impact they will give.
Speaking of signings, offensive midfielder Petteri Pennanen, who returned home to Kuopio from the Polish second tier, is a great addition. And I can say that despite KuPS problems aren’t explained through the quality of players. However, Pennanen brings stability to the turbulent offense of KuPS.
But I don’t think he can save KuPS points in Seinäjoki. His team has had a rough time against SJK in Veikkausliiga. In fact, they’re still without a win. History also indicates that we’ll see only a goal or two, so a bet on under isn’t a bad idea either.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: SJK DNB at 1.720
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