Sirius v Djurgården
After a midweek Swedish Cup qualifying round, with both teams getting through fairly easily against inferior opposition, we’re back to normal Allsvenskan proceedings this Sunday.
Sirius’ season has gone more or less as expected, with a solid mid-table position looking more than likely. Currently in 9th with ten points down to Degerfors in the relegation playoff spot, it’s unlikely they’ll get dragged into any sort of scrap at the bottom. Likewise, there’s not much chance of gaining ground, with six points up to the impressive Mjällby in 8th.
The Uppsala side has struggled of late, only securing one win in the last six league games. The last two matches have ended in defeat, with a 0-0 draw against Helsingborg prior to that, and Sirius have deservedly been unable to score a single goal in the last three. The team’s leading scorer Kouakou has gone cold, only netting once in the last nine Allsvenskan matches, however his brace in the cup could be a positive sign. He needs better service up front; the team is struggling to create despite keeping the ball well and often winning the battle for possession. Two regular starters in Björkström and Stensson will return here after suspension and there are no other major injury worries, except poor Patrik Karlsson Lagemyr who suffered another long-term knee ligament injury in the last match.
Djurgården’s qualification for the UECL was followed by a 2-1 win at home over Elfsborg last weekend, managing to grind out a win without an overly convincing performance. The qualifying campaign is bound to have taken a toll on the squad, and a whole load of rotation in the cup on Thursday will have done them good. A few players sat out completely, seemingly only to get a rest with no injury concerns reported, so they should come into this game fresher than in recent league matches. With a title race likely going down to the wire, every point counts, especially with a European group stage coming up meaning rotation will be required further forward.
The away team is stronger on paper in every position and need a win to keep up with Häcken at the top of the league, they should have enough in the tank to overcome a lacklustre Sirius side with little to play for.
Häcken v Degerfors
BK Häcken go from strength to strength – after a shaky run of form in July, their August performances have been a joy to behold, placing them at the top of the division. Four consecutive wins and a goal difference of 11-1, the most encouraging thing being three clean sheets in four. The defensive improvement was necessary, having not kept a clean sheet all season prior, and a bit of pragmatism has entered into the team’s playing style, maybe realising they may be close to something major. Winning 1-0 in consecutive encounters is out of the norm for Häcken, but it’s certainly impressive knowing they can beat teams in a number of different ways.
Jeremejeff remains the best striker in the league by a distance, he’s now up to 20 goals in 19 appearances, also chipping in with 3 assists. The whole team is providing value to the team, though, with six different scorers in the last four matches. In addition, the twin Gustafson duo, combined with the goal-hungry Rygaard Jensen, makes up arguably the strongest midfield in the league.
Their opponents Degerfors were on a pretty miserable run, winning only one out of 11 games, before managing to overcome fellow strugglers GIF Sundsvall by a 3-1 scoreline in the last round, moving them above Helsingborg in the table. Another 3-1 victory against a weak Huddinge side in the cup in midweek is bound to have raised spirits further. Despite being four points behind IFK Värnamo, there is cause for optimism, and with ten games to go there is plenty to play for sitting in the relegation playoff spot. New striker Omar Faraj bagged his first goal against Sundsvall and if he gets firing, Degerfors could have a real gem on their hands (albeit only on loan for the season).
Despite a marked improvement for the away side, they’ve struggled mightily against stronger opposition – the last defeat being a 5-1 drubbing at the hands of Hammarby. I expect Häcken to put in a statement performance to satisfy the home faithful here, they should win by a couple of goals against the division’s second leakiest defence.
Kalmar v Varberg
Kalmar have at times been criticised by rival fans for a somewhat sterile playing style, but the truth is they’re one of the most solid sides in the whole division and incredibly hard to break down. Their mantra of defending by not allowing the opposition to see the ball has worked a charm – they’ve got the third-highest average possession in the league while conceding the second-fewest goals. Henrik Rydström is lauded as one of the shrewdest managers in Allsvenskan and has been linked with bigger jobs as a result of Kalmar’s impressive season.
Three wins in the last four – all by a 1-0 scoreline – against strong opposition places Kalmar in 7th position, only three points off AIK in 4th. Last week, Malmö were overcome in a brilliant team effort – a draw would have been a fairer result but an own goal in the 92nd minute gifted Kalmar the victory. Kalmar’s resilience leads to low-scoring games; while conceding 17, a mere 23 goals have been scored at the other end. In the last 12 matches, only two have seen over 2.5 goals.
Varberg, on the other hand, are more open at the back, having conceded a total of 33 goals in 20 games. There has been some improvement in that regard recently, though, “only” letting in four in their last three matches. They haven’t lost in those three matches, either, an impressive feat seeing as the last two were against Djurgården and Norrköping. Despite being six points above the relegation playoff spot there’s still a lot of football to be played, so they’re not out of the woods yet. There’s a new sternness in Varberg’s play which was lacking previously, and they seem determined to be a bit more conservative in order to put points on the board. Robin Simovic has, after a problematic start to the campaign, really got going – he has five goals in the last nine league matches.
Despite Varberg being more solid defensively of late, they’re still not scoring many, and neither are Kalmar. This is bound to be another low-scoring contest, with only one game at Guldfågeln Arena this season seeing more than two goals.
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