We have domestic action from Ireland, Finland and Sweden to kick off what will be the final round of fixtures for many major leagues across Europe.
Luckily, it is still early days for the teams in these three respected countries, and we have best bets covering plenty of the major ties as the League of Ireland Premier, Veikkausliiga and Superettan kick into full gear.
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SJK v KuPS
The two form teams in the division meet, weeks after neither looked like being a credible threat.
SJK are unbeaten, with a mean defence and as coach Joaquin Gomez keeps reminding everyone at every opportunity, the youngest team in the division. A very professional and confident 0-2 win at KTP on Monday was always likely, but the manner of the performance was strong and very “training ground” goal from Jaime Moreno was the icing on the cake. The upward trajectory since the autumn has been evident and the players are rewarding the trust given to them by Gomez. The assist for Moreno’s goal came from Valentin Gasc, one of the most promising players yet to come through their academy side. In this fixture last season, SJK terminally wounded the KuPS title tilt and will fancy a repeat.
When Jani Honkavaara left KuPS after winning the title in 2019 to take over at SJK, it all ended sourly as he was then sacked after “only” coming third in 2021. His new KuPS have won all six games since his return while Urho Nissilä’s return to the club at the same time has done the same on the pitch. The solid defence will have their work cut out on Friday against Moreno but they are still having to rotate the goals without a fully firing centre forward. The unlikely threat is Joona Veteli, with three goals in four games after being in and out of the team under Simo Valakari.
Form suggests the two could cancel each other out but should be an interesting clash of tactics.
VPS v Ilves
After a mixed start for VPS, not aided by the fixture list, they’ve discovered their goalscoring touch, aided by an 11-0 win against an amateur side of ex-pros in the cup. Going to Haka and securing a 2-2 draw last week was a decent result and Peter Michael has finally hit some form after a toothless run. It’s disappointing that captain Seba Strandvall can’t feature for a full 90 minutes but his influence remains. The great hope for the side is young winger Roni Hudd, the subject of transfer speculation in the winter and likely to attract a decent fee is he keeps playing at a high level – and is looking sharp already.
Ilves gave HJK a very good game last weekend, scoring a nice goal and missing a penalty before conceding very late in a tale that describes the season perfectly. Lauri Ala-Myllymaki provided both the assist and the penalty miss, his first real contributions since his return from Venezia. The pressure will be lifted by the return of skipper Petteri Pennanen from suspension should give more reassurance from set pieces, he remains their top scorer from midfield.
Both sides are already fairly mired in mid-table and would receive a welcome boost from three points – with VPS looking slightly more threatening and likely to take it but neither are resolute in defence. A European place is an ultimate aim for both but it may be a cup run that yields it, despite the eccentric league playoff system.
Osters v Landskrona
After a month of the 2023 Superettan season, it had appeared that the hosts were going to be a front-runner for automatic promotion, whilst Landskrona will take time to ease their way into the campaign. A month on and these two sides head into this encounter in very different moods and form.
Under the management of Stefan Tugedzic, Osters began the campaign with four successive victories as they sat at the top of the table at the end of April. The home team scored 12 goals in those games, too, to suggest a dominant streak for their upcoming year. They missed out on promotion in the Allsvenskan/Superettan relegation/promotion playoff place last season and were expected to go a couple of steps further this time around.
They come into this one, though, on the back of a 2-1 defeat to the new league leaders, Vasteras, in their most recent outing, last week. That means they have collected just a point in their last four matches as they drift away from the top.
Landskrona let a two-goal lead slip at home to Orebro last weekend but still managed to get the three points via a 74th-minute winner from Ousmane Diawara. That victory means they have now collected ten points in their last four matches.
The visitors began the season with three defeats in their opening four matches with the only game in which they didn’t suffer a two-goal loss coming in a 2-0 win against bottom-of-the-table and still winless Skovde.
Given the form of the two sides, there will be value in backing the away team because, despite their poor recent results, Osters’ home advantage still has them relatively well-fancied.
Drogheda United v UCD AFC
Drogheda United were finally rewarded for a string of fine performances on Friday night last as the Louth men caused the upset of the season so far by winning at the home of the Champions Shamrock Rovers. Kevin Doherty’s team should have a lot more points on the board than they currently with a number of excellent efforts in recent months yielding little to no reward but the visit of the league’s bottom team to Weavers Park offers the Drogs a great opportunity to climb the league table.
While Drogheda had to be disciplined against a Rovers team who had won their previous six, the two goals Drogheda did score were brilliant moves and displays the fact this team is about far more than just sitting in to frustrate the opposition, they can play too.
UCD have their young goalkeeper Kian Moore to thank for keeping the scoreline down in a 4-1 defeat against the now league leaders Derry City last time out. However, following Adam Wells’s goal from a set-piece to make it 3-1, UCD enjoyed a purple patch in the game and were unlucky not to make it a one-goal game. A late flurry from Derry soon put the game to bed but this is the sort of fixture UCD know their future in the top flight will be decided on, not trips to the likes of the Brandywell.
Drogheda scraped a 1-0 win in the reverse fixture away from home and now come into this home game full of confidence as they seek back-to-back wins for the first time this term. While the scoreline was tight in the previous meeting, Drogheda absolutely battered the Students and should have won by a much bigger margin.
Finishing clear-cut chances really held back Drogheda earlier in the season but you’d hope that momentous win last time will give the likes of Freddie Drapper a real boost of confidence in front of goal and I expect the on-loan Lincoln striker to go on a bit of a run now starting here.
St. Patrick’s Athletic v Dundalk
Following three wins in four matches, St. Patrick’s Athletic have taken the decision to install interim boss Jon Daly as manager on a permanent basis. Friday’s hard-fought Dublin derby win away to rivals Shelbourne lifted the Saints back into the top four and they’ll be eyeing this game against fifth-placed Dundalk as a chance to stamp their authority in the race for Europe.
Dundalk’s up-and-down season continued last week as they threw away a 2-0 lead at home to Bohemians with the Gypsies producing a rip-roaring second-half display to earn a point. Dundalk were totally overwhelmed in the second forty-five on Friday and were lucky to come away with anything in the end. Injuries are certainly playing a part in Dundalk’s apparent vulnerability this season but the simple fact is they failed to improve the squad significantly in the off-season and they are being punished for that now.
Having won four consecutive matches, Dundalk are now winless in two and that winning run of late very much appealed as something of a false dawn as the Lilywhites were extremely lucky in a number of those games.
If you’ve done your own bit of research on this fixture I’m sure your eyes were immediately drawn to the most recent H2H fixture between the sides in which Dundalk dished out a 5-0 hammering to the Saints. That result came at a time in the season when the then Pats boss Tim Clancy was under immense pressure and his players were clearly carrying that tension out onto the pitch as they tamely folded against a Dundalk side who really didn’t have to play that well to score five goals.
This will be an entirely different proposition with St. Pat’s being backed by a capacity Richmond Park crowd. This is a venue Dundalk have failed to win any of their last four fixtures at and with St. Pat’s appearing to rediscover their mojo under their new boss this could be another difficult trip to the Capital for the Louth men.
Pats midfielder Chris Forrester has long been regarded as one of the very best players in Ireland and he’s shown that in recent weeks with two goals and two assists in his last four matches. The former Peterborough player has netted 8 times in 17 matches this season and given how easily the Dundalk midfield were flooded by Bohs last week, Forrester could be the deciding factor in this one.
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Written by an Andy verified content writer
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