Hammarby v Djurgården
A scorching Stockholm derby between second and third in the league; a home win would put Hammarby within one point of their opponents, whereas three points for Djurgården make it extremely difficult for Bajen to catch them. We’re in for a scintillating afternoon at Tele2 Arena with both teams gunning for the title.
Hammarby’s run of four matches without defeat came to an abrupt end last weekend, suffering a 4-1 thumping at the hands of IFK Norrköping. It was a well-deserved victory too with Norrköping the better team, especially in the second half. Underlying numbers confirm this, with Hammarby only creating 1.07 xG to Norrköping’s 2.44, although two penalties skew the figures.
Nonetheless, the hosts are looking consistently dangerous with one of the best squads in the league after some impressive summer recruitment. Attacking-wise there’s not much to complain about, being the joint second-highest top scorers in Allsvenskan, and new star striker Berisha doesn’t make things any worse. He has four goals and an assist in five matches, proving to already be one of the absolute top players in the division – he’s arguably the second-best striker after the imperious Jeremejeff. With a healthy squad too boost, and a strong derby record, there are no excuses for Hammarby.
Much has been said about Djurgården’s “derby ghost” in recent years; this has firmly been put to bed, beating Hammarby in consecutive seasons – the last encounter back in July ended with a hard-fought 1-0 victory. Since then, DIF haven’t lost a single league game, racking up six victories and two draws. Interestingly, the two draws have come against minor teams in Värnamo and Varberg – they tend to fare well against stronger opposition but can sometimes switch off when facing lesser sides. Their first European campaign in over 25 years started off fairly well, securing a 0-0 draw away at Shamrock Rovers, although the performance left a lot to be desired. Some rotation is to be expected in this game, but the managerial duo has shown a willingness to put out strong starting XI’s even after testing European fixtures.
Two incredibly strong sides going head-to-head with an intention to win the title. Both are better offensively than at the back, so expect to see goals at both ends here.
Malmö v Norrköping
By Malmö’s standards, the current campaign has been an absolute disaster. Despite having undoubtedly the strongest squad in the Allsvenskan, they’ve had nothing at all to do with the title race and sit in 7th, 11 points off the top of the table. After Milos Milojevic’s sacking, Sporting Director Andreas Georgson took charge without much success, and now old fox Åge Hareide has been brought in until the end of the season. An experienced and well-liked face could steady the ship, but the team didn’t display much of an upswing in the first round of the Europa League, losing 2-0 and getting dominated by Braga.
Three losses in a row – disregarding the 9-0 Swedish Cup qualifying game against minnows Brålanda – and a sterile style of play have frustrated everyone close to the club. In the league, one win in the last five, against bottom of the league Sundsvall, makes for grim reading. They haven’t faced the cream of the crop in the league either and are on a real skid, at risk of missing out on European football entirely for the first time since 2015. Injuries to key players like Lewicki and Dahlin have played a part, no doubt, but the strength in depth is such that they start every league game as favourites.
Norrköping themselves have struggled this season – with one of the strongest squads in the division on paper, sitting in the bottom half is simply inexcusable. A real rollercoaster campaign, starting off terribly before going on a winning run, to then go without a win for eight straight matches, has placed them in 11th. Performances and results have improved of late, though, with only one loss in the last five league encounters, emerging victorious last weekend against title contenders Hammarby. Arnor Sigurdsson’s arrival has had much to do with their upswing in form recently, being arguably the best midfielder in the league since joining from CSKA Moscow just under two months ago. He won’t stay for long, so Peking supporters have to enjoy his presence while it lasts – he has five goals and two assists in six matches.
A match-up between two giants struggling majorly to keep clean sheets – 1 in 10 for Malmö and only 1 in 14 for Norrköping – and this should be a slugfest.
Varberg v AIK
Varberg, despite still being five points away from the relegation playoff spot, need to be careful and start picking up more points to not get dragged into a relegation battle. IFK Värnamo just ahead look to have enough quality to stay clear of other relegation candidates, so it’s a case of keeping the chasing teams behind them for Varberg. Whereas they’ve been better than all teams below in the league this season, a recent run of form with only one win in nine is worrying. The sole reason they remain on solid ground is the fact that teams behind them are even more miserable currently.
Not much has clicked of late; Varberg are both finding it difficult to score and keep it tight at the back. In fact, only one clean sheet has been kept in 16 matches, and each game they play tends to end up in a back-and-forth battle. More often than not they concede first, having to chase the game, and with a defence which isn’t particularly solid to begin with it doesn’t help them in the slightest.
AIK haven’t been at the top of their game themselves, struggling massively to beat distinctly average sides in European qualification while experiencing a tough period domestically. Manager Bartosz Grzelak was let go as a result, and it looks like some improvements have been made with club legend Henok Goitom at the helm. Despite a real baptism of fire in his first managerial role, he’s managed to implement a new formation, making the team more potent offensively. The 3-5-2 used previously was much too restrictive and it looks like the 4-3-3 can be fruitful, however defensively there’s still much to desire. The only clean sheet since Goitom took charge was in the last league game against rock bottom Sundsvall, by far the worst side in Allsvenskan, and even lower-league Hudiksvall managed to score twice against AIK in the cup last week. One huge positive, though, is the injury situation – the important Nabil Bahoui is back to close to his best, but may act as super sub in some games, with the only important player likely out here being centre-back Alexander Milosevic.
AIK’s football is much more attacking under Goitom, with over 2.5 goals five of their last six, and the bookies don’t seem to have caught on. Varberg concede plenty and score in most games too, making the over 2.5 attractive.
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