PREVIEW: This week and the next are of definitive nature as far as the title race is concerned. TPS will play both Haka and table-topping HJK this week, and two wins could see them occupy the driving seat. Two draws would leave everything to be settled, while two defeats would pretty much confirm that TPS would have to settle with the lower European spots at best. Haka will entertain VPS on Saturday and then it is their turn to face HJK, so we are about to witness two crucial weeks in the title race.
Both teams are in a good form – which goes without saying for anyone who has taken a look at the league table. Haka have a well-established system that keeps producing good results, despite the fact that they are still missing a proper striker who they could count on to score the vital goals. They have a good, solid backline, a good goalkeeper in Janne Korhonen and some other decent players, such as Mika Mäkitalo and Sami Ristilä. They might not have the best set of players in the league, but they have talented individuals, and now that they have a solid system, they fully deserve their second spot in the league table.
TPS started the season quite poorly, but have started picking up more points in recent times. Pasi Rautiainen’s squad are delivering on the head coach’s promise of TPS being a hard team to win, as they are on an unbeaten run of seven games at the moment. The transfer window could be a difficult one for them, because Fulham loanee Wayne Brown will almost certainly go and try to break into Roy Hodgson’s Premier League squad, while goalkeeper Jukka Lehtovaara and midfielder Kasper Hämäläinen could find themselves at a bigger club. They are able to make the trip to Valkeakoski with their best squad though.
INJURIES AND SUSPENSIONS: TPS have a full squad to choose from. Haka are missing Kalle Parviainen and Nicolas Kivistö. Jari Nikkilä started his military service today and could miss the game.
PREDICTION: There is nothing much between the sides, and both teams are difficult to win. It would be nice to see something half-decisive happen in the top three, but we might have to leave that for the other top clashes.
FIRST MEETING: April 18th, TPS – Haka 1-2
Wayne Brown got TPS off to a flyer on the 4th minute, before the home team started playing very badly. Pietari Holopainen finally put Haka on level terms on the 58th minute and Diego Corpache secured the three points for Haka some 15 minutes before the final whistle.
- Valeri Popovits’ contract at Haka was not extended after last season, and the veteran midfielder has attacked his former club verbally a couple of times – for a reason, because Haka put their long-time servant aside in a rather tasteless manner. Now Haka have decided to honour one of their legends by “freezing” his number 14 tonight, and Popovits will attend the game. Calm after the storm?
- TPS’ Mikko Manninen will return to his former club for the first time after he left prior to this season. He is a good player and has always ranked high in the assists table, but his form has been a bit sketchy at TPS.
Mypa attempt to bounce back from their 3-1 home defeat against KuPS with a trip to Central Finland to play Jyväskylä’s finest. JJK are going to offer a trial to Georgi hristov, who once had to apologise to the women of Barnsley for calling them ugly, beer drinking residents of a strange country.
“The local girls are far uglier than the ones back in Belgrade or Skopje, the capital of Macedonia, where I come from.
“Our women are much prettier. Besides, they don’t drink as much beer as the Barnsley girls which is something I don’t like at all.”
“England is a strange country and I found it hard to adapt to living here. The main thing is that I am not on my own. To be honest I expected more of Barnsley as a town and a club.”
JJK CEO Joni Vesalainen was open to a vaguely misogynistic interview with the Skopje Scorpion when he finally arrives in Central Finland, and we will breathlessly report all scurrilous, fatuous gossip as best we can.
To attempt to bring this back towards some kind of football focus, JJK can’t score goals and so are trialling many more players alongside Hristov. I think it will be 0-0, as draws are about the best JJK have managed this season.