AC Oulu v Lahti
A very exciting 2022 for AC Oulu has been derailed this week after the Finnish FA overturned their 1-0 win against Inter last month (now a 0-3 defeat) due to a lack of homegrown players in the matchday squad. The squad has been a treat to watch this season and their displays under coach Ricardo Duarte have been a revelation after a difficult 2021. With two matches left of the main series, a win here would boost the slim hopes of a European play-off spot and both games are against the bottom two. The most recent new signing, English striker Issa Sekajja, is serving a ban after a straight red card on his debut but they club did announce they would retain him. Oulu played well against Honka last week and were unlucky not to win, a late equaliser costing them points after a magnificent free kick from Rasmus Karjalainen.
Lahti fell meekly at home to Mariehamn last week, an impotent 2-0 defeat keeping them rooted in eleventh place, while they lost their cup semi final against KuPS in midweek. The ill-discipline is costing them enormously, Eduards Emsis is suspended again after four yellow cards in the five games since his last ban. Recent signing Nemanja Bosancic has already left, the club somehow collecting a fee as he moves to China. After a good win against VPS when there appeared to be the start of some form returning, the stuffing has been knocked out and the relegation play-off spot looks likely.
Oulu should be looking at six points from these last two matches and if they display anything approaching their earlier season freedom, should have far too much for this limited Lahti side.
HJK v HIFK
The final Stadin derby of 2022 is likely to be the final one for a while, with HJK chasing the title and HIFK fighting to minimise the financial calamity that will follow their certain relegation. The gulf between the two clubs has existed forever, but with HJK selling out their Europa League group games and HIFK handing out a begging bowl (while tenants in HJK’s stadium), this could get messy.
HJK rotated heavily in their 1-0 win against HJK, hailstorms and a lack of cohesion were overcome with a beautiful goal from Anthony Olusanya. Betis at home next week will be a marquee occasion but this match needs all the focus to keep their title defence going. HJK have renewed contracts for several of the young players who’ve stood in admirably during a difficult summer, while experienced defender Joona Toivio came on as a late sub in his first appearance in over two months so may get a run here against tough but sluggish opposition.
HIFK fought their way to a point at VPS and coach Mixu Paatelainen rued missing out on a second win of the season. A powerful strike from Michael Bakare opened the scoring but the defence just can’t hold out for 90 minutes. They did lead Inter in their cup semi final on Wednesday before losing 2-3, Ani Ifeanyi scoring a beauty then receiving a red card is very HIFK 2022. In recent years, derbies have brought out their best, they won this fixture 0-2 last season but that team had Kei Kamara and a far more dynamic squad. This side seem incapable of doing little and will do well to keep their landlords to long range efforts.
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