HJK entertain Inter tonight in one of the most highly anticipated matches of the current campaign. Inter, second in the table, chase the hosts by seven points with a game in hand, so if the Turku team manage a victory in Helsinki all the talk of handing the Veikkausliiga trophy to HJK may just turn out to be premature.
HJK beat Inter 1-0 in the first outing between the biggest title candidates back in May. The result, however, didn’t do justice to the match as HJK’s domination on the pitch was apparent. And domination is exactly the word that describes ‘Klubi”s recent performances. The league leaders have recorded eight straight wins and scored 31 goals in the process, including a preposterous 6-0 win over TPS. HJK have been in crushing form especially at home which does not bode well for the visitors who have shipped in seven goals in the last two games.
Despite the defensive shortcomings (which haven’t been fixed by the arrival of former Finland and HJK defender Toni Kallio, perhaps more to the contrary) being a huge problem, Inter do have their say in the match. At best Inter can produce dynamic attacking moves which culminate in the intelligent and effective finishes by the trio Mika Ojala, Timo Furuholm and Henri Lehtonen (who have recorded 26 of Inter’s 34 goals). The dead ball specialist Ojala in particular has been in stellar form scoring 9 goals and providing 10 assists.
In order to stop Inter from inflicting their damage, HJK must clamp down in midfield to prevent Inter’s counter-attacking transitions. As the visitors will be looking to smash and grab whatever they can from the Sonera Stadium, HJK need to be determined and precise with their pressing without loosing their shape. However, since HJK’s central midfielders (Dawda Bah and Alexander Ring) haven’t found a full-proof defensive understanding yet, Inter may find the required space there to manoeuvre a way forward.
It is expected that Inter will sit back with numbers, keep a tight collective shape and hit on the counter. Dead balls will also be key, particularly since HJK’s defence have been far from immaculate when defending set pieces. Therefore, magic is anticipated from Ojala’s right foot. HJK, on the other hand, will approach the match with confidence, relying on their rolling attacking play and in-form attackers (lead by Teemu Pukki) to finish the title hopefuls off.