AIK v Hammarby
A fierce Stockholm derby between two rivals battling it out at the top end of the table, however the recent form of these sides couldn’t be further apart.
AIK’s season has been a real disappointment; after pushing Malmö FF all the way to the wire last year, the play this campaign has stuttered badly. Results have been scraped through a number of quality players’ individual performances, but far too often the attacking play has been disjointed while defensively they’ve been too passive. Last year’s best defence has conceded one goal less this season with 11 matches left to play. The fiasco in European qualifying has summed it all up – AIK just about managed to beat minnows from Ukraine and North Macedonia but were taken apart when up against stronger opposition in Slovacko, losing 4-0 over two legs. The manager’s head has had to roll as a result, with club legend Henok Goitom coming in on an interim basis until the end of the season – his first managerial job.
John Guidetti hasn’t had the desired impact in attack, much down to the lack of support he’s getting in forward areas. Another new signing – Luxemburg international Vincent Thill – got a straight red in the last league game and misses out here as a result. Alexander Milosevic’s absence has been felt, he’s still missing due to injury. The minor positives are firstly, the return to the starting XI of Nabil Bahoui in the last couple of matches, and secondly, their league form and standing not taking too much of a hit despite poor play.
Hammarby, on the other hand, are flying and really putting together a credible title charge. They have won five of their last six league matches, with only a blip a few games ago against IFK Värnamo. After a demolition of Degerfors last weekend (5-1), they’ve now scored 19 goals in the same run of games while only conceding three, giving them the best goal difference in the division. New signings have settled in brilliantly – big-money signing Veton Berisha has three goals and an assist in four matches while both Saidi and Pinas have played important roles recently.
The change in manager, and system, is a positive for the home side, but Hammarby are the stronger team both on paper and form-wise.
Helsingborg v Mjällby
After a dire start to the season, Helsingborg have actually put together a decent run of form of late, only losing once in the last five matches meaning they’ve managed to climb out of the relegation zone past Degerfors into the playoff spot. Both conceding too many and not scoring enough have been major issues all year long, and while they still aren’t scoring much, defensively there’s been a marked improvement. Just over 5 xG conceded in the last five, with nearly 2 of those given up to Häcken in the 5-0 drubbing, is real cause for optimism, having conceded 25.23 xG in the 14 matches prior. All of their points won recently have been hard-fought without much sight of an offensive upswing. The departure of star striker van den Hurk doesn’t help, however he barely featured in the last five matches so the team has shown it can handle his absence.
Their opponents Mjällby are in fine form themselves, only losing two of their last ten games, placing them in a respectable 8th position in the table. An incredibly resilient side, most clubs except the very best in the division have failed to beat them. Being one of the lowest scorers in Allsvenskan hasn’t been an issue as they’ve only conceded 17 goals in 19 matches to date. Most Mjällby matches tend to be low-scoring affairs, only seeing above 2.5 goals on four occasions this whole campaign, and often they’ll aim to avoid defeat rather than go for the win.
A fully fit away side will limit Helsingborg’s chances, while any point is valuable in a closely fought relegation battle for the hosts. As such, don’t expect to see many goals at either end.
Djurgården v Elfsborg
Djurgården have hit a couple of stumbling blocks in recent times, drawing in matches they should win against Värnamo and Varberg, much down to their European exploit.
Following a hugely impressive Conference League qualification run, beating seasoned European participants APOEL 5-3 on aggregate, the Stockholm side has reached the group stage of a continental competition for the first time since the 1996 Intertoto cup. Some incredible displays have got them there, however playing every three days has taken it out of the squad, leading to a couple of league draws recently. Rotation has played a part, mainly due to the players coming in not being used to playing together – they certainly possess the quality required to compete at the top of Allsvenskan. DIF only sit three points off Häcken in first place, though, with better goal difference to boost, and can be confident of pushing their rivals at the top all the way.
Rasmus Schüller’s injury has been mitigated by Besard Sabovic’s seamless introduction into the team – he was brilliant as an anchor midweek against APOEL. Joel Asoro is on absolute fire, while Gustav Wikheim is showing to be a shrewd signing. Isak Hien has been a standout performer in his breakout season and looks to be set for a move to Serie A and Hellas Verona, thus it’s possible he won’t be involved and Marcus Danielson takes his place in defence.
Elfsborg season is proving to be a let-down on all fronts – a wholly underwhelming UECL qualification campaign has gone hand in hand with some dismal league form. A run of ten games without a win in all competitions is grim reading for Jimmy Thelin and the Borås faithful; the manager remains backed by the club’s directors and largely by its fanbase too, but too many more matches with performances lacking cohesion could spell trouble for the league’s longest-serving head coach. Even though they haven’t lost for four games, wins are badly needed. A porous defence is a major issue, but at least they’re finding the net in the vast majority of matches – it’s been six games since they were held scoreless. The turnaround in the squad has undoubtedly been harmful, and maybe the new arrivals are starting to settle and find their place in the team.
Djurgården had a big unload of energy on Tuesday but with six days between matches, should have more than enough in the tank to field a full-strength side here. They’re struggling to keep clean sheets though, and with Elfsborg scoring regularly and in need of a victory, we’re bound to see some goals.
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