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Finland hockey Liiga comes back from an international break now and the season is reaching the final decisive stage. Teams have played 45-47 matches and there is only about a month to go before the playoffs begin. Here is our current team ranking and we list all the key points of each team you should look for.
Kärpät is simply the number one favorite for the Liiga title even if there is still a lot of room for improvement. Their defense hasn’t been on the same level it was earlier this season but attacking has improved a lot lately. Especially forward Joonas Donskoi has started to reach the high expectations. Kärpät have set the roles very well for each attacking line and the team is a good mix of experience and young players moving forward in their career.
Strengths: Player material is the most balanced one in the league and the leading players have simply the experience of winning needed. Top-class coaching of course and they have found the perfect attacking lines right now.
Weaknesses: Small suspicion if the goalkeeping is good enough. Is Karhunen able to repeat “the miracle” of the previous season when he could surprise everyone. Is Tarkki really a goalie for a title-winning team? There are many really good goalies in Liiga this season and this area is one clear threat for their title ambitions.
The Surprise: Saku Mäenalanen. the former U20 World Champion has been searching his place in both Hokki and Pelicans this season. Now he’s returned to Oulu and been really good in 2nd line. Confidence is raising and he’ll get plenty of minutes on ice in the future.
The Performer: Joonas Donskoi. He’s pushing to make it to World Championship team as well. A very good overall player, +- stats +18 is an excellent number and reflects his working morale.
The Disappointment: Dan Spang. He was excellent in playoffs in SaiPa last season but so far a totally different man in Kärpät. Lots of mistakes and he hasn’t done much in attack either, which was expected to be his strength.
Tappara is currently the number one challenger for Kärpät. Their form curve is pointing to the right direction right now and they have come out of a serious crisis, which certainly brought the team together.
Strengths: the key players are really good quality. Olli Palola, Teemu Aalto and Metsola are undisputed top class players in Liiga this season. They have also a lot of hunger from last season and a good chance to actually win the title.
Weaknesses: the depth of the squad – it feels like they might not have enough players capable to score decisive goals when games get tougher. The winning culture / mentality: there is a big difference to Kärpät in this department when you look at the achievements and experience of the leading players. Coaches are also not the most experienced ones.
The Surprise: attacker Jarkko Malinen. He’s been the most balanced centre-forward of Tappara, excellent defensive work-rate as well. He fits perfectly in the middle of very attacking-minded duo Palola/Kuusela.
The Performer: Olli Palola has found a great form lately after a disappointing early season.
The Disappointment: Defender David Kolomatis has so far failed to fill his role
HIFK have suffered badly from some key player injuries this season (Söderholm, Ikonen etc). They have recently looked very tired as well. HIFK was a very disciplined team earlier this season but they’ve made a lot of mistakes in January matches.
Strengths: HIFK have tons of firepower and capacity to score goals, but they need to find the permanent to lines and also get injured players back in full fitness.
Weaknesses: currently HIFK haven’t been able to find permanent lines but the players are being switched all the time, partly due to injuries as well and partly because they haven’t found player-combinations that work. The biggest question mark is goaltending: Husso is not currently on a level he should be and Lankinen is not good enough either. This duo is way too inexperienced if HIFK will have to go with them to the playoffs matches.
The Surprise: defender Lauri Taipalus was simply excellent earlier this season
The Performer: defender Toni Söderholm has suffered from injuries but when he has been fit, he has been convincing.
The Disappointment: Goalies after X-Mas, especially Husso
The big question mark with is this: how is the Perhonen / Chiodo duo able to cover for injured goalkeeper Kilpeläinen. The year 2015 has been so far pretty solid for this team.
Strengths: The famous “puck-control hockey” has always been the strength for this team and that’s how they have built the roster and they got right type of players to perform it.
Weaknesses: The playing style like this can be also at the same time a big liability, because it hasn’t simply worked in playoffs in recent years. How is the goalkeeper situation going to be? Currently KalPa is also rotating their lines and seeking for the optimal player-combinations. Are they going to find them in time? At the moment power-play and a general inefficiency is a weakness for this team as well.
The Surprise: attacker Mikael Ruohomaa. He was found from 1st division (Mestis) and few years ago Ruohomaa was playing even in lower divisions. He’s a talent who has been able to develop his physics to a high enough level.
The Performer: experienced attacker Jukka Voutilainen has scored 15 times already
The Disappointment: Power-Play, especially in their travels
JYP is a very tricky team in betting since the difference between good day and a bad day can be massive. They had a lot of points earlier this season due to excellent goaltending and back then in-form Hännikäinen-Löfman-Tuppurainen line. There is no way JYP is going to reach final this season with these players, though.
Strengths: Hännikäinen-Löfman-Tuppurainen line + Perrin. Is this line able to find its early-season form and can old man Perrin feed even more goals to in-form attacker Tuomas Pihlman?
Weaknesses: the playing style. The way JYP attacks is too simple and they can be blocked too easily. They have also made lots of mistakes in defense which has become a big issue. Goaltending is also nowhere near on the level it was earlier this season.
The Surprise: attacker Tuomas Pihlman has found a great form
The Performer: attacker Jani Tuppurainen and in fact the whole attacking line. He’s one of the best attackers in Liiga and a crucial piece of JYP with his attitude and experience
The Disappointment: Defending overall, it’s way too messy and error-prone right now.
SaiPa is the most potential team in Liiga from the betting perspective. It’s a very predictable team with its performances when you know what the strengths and weaknesses are. SaiPa has a strong team who could challenge everyone else in Liiga except maybe not Kärpät. They had problems earlier this season when the points were scored by a too small group of players but now this has improved. Overall we’d still expect more from the 1st-choice line Tavi-Koho-Mankinen. This trio was the best part of SaiPa in playoffs last year and expectations have been clearly higher.
Strengths: HUNGER and physics in general. The key players are also very high quality: Markkanen, Löfqvist, McIntyre.
Weaknesses: they practically have no 2nd-choice goalkeeper. The 1st-choice line have to improve from what we’ve seen so far.
The Surprise: defender Sam Löfqvist has played a sensational season so far, he has tons of potential, excellent skating, good shot and crowned with a top-class attitude.
The Performer: David McIntyre is definitely one of the top centre-forwards in the Liiga. He’s a team player who does his defensive duties as well but got also capacity to score. He’s been an excellent signing from SaiPa and their best player so far.
The Disappointment: defender Brian Salcido has improved from the disastrous early season, though. Even if you are an attacking-minded defenseman you still have to be able to defend as well; so far Salcido has made awful lot of easy defensive mistakes.
Bonus: our overall betting view for SaiPa. To put it roughly, SaiPa is a good idea when they are rated as underdogs but avoid them when they are put as clear favorites. They rarely lose games with a high margin and it’s even more rare they have a match where they are totally outplayed.
Lukko is rated here based on the roster they have available right now when key players Vahalahti (coming back soon) and Gagnon are out. Lukko have looked very tired and lacking inspiration badly in January at the times. Though, the latest 5-0 win over Tappara was certainly a flash of something better. The clean sheet was a very important for goalkeeper Zapolski, who has been insecure for long time now.
Strengths: the leading players have experience and know what it takes to win (Vahalahti, Niskala)
Weaknesses: goaltending is far from the level where it should be. The depth of the squad; they have too few players capable of deciding matches.
The Surprise: attacker Olavi Vauhkonen has exceeded expectations. The attacker with a big frame has scored nice amount of goals and is a very dangerous player when he parks himself near the opponent goal.
The Performer: attacker Ville Vahalahti is a solid performer and a leader week after week.
The Disappointment: attacker Jesper Piitulainen has failed badly so far after flashing his talent last season
Ässät is the best away team in the league so far! Overall they have overperformed and got a lot of points due to a very, very hot goalkeeper. They have definitely had more points so far they deserved. Ässät have also many key players injured currently: Elo (leading goal scorer), Ryan, Lähteenmäki.
Strengths: Ässät have currently the most in-form goalie in the league, Juuso Riksman. They also have probably the best defender in Liiga: Esa Lindell.
Weaknesses: the depth of the squad, there really aren’t many top quality players. The injuries of the key guys listed earlier: can they get back to full fitness in time?
The Surprise: attacker Eero Elo, who can create scoring chances out of nowhere. Very convincing work so far.
The Performer: defender Esa Lindell, he’s either The Best or one of the best defenders in the league right now.
The Disappointment: home performances
HPK have improved a lot lately; they possess a good team spirit which shows on how players are fighting on the ice right now. Goalkeeper Juuso Saros is a solid performer who can keep high standards week after week. However, the roster is very limited so the question is how far can Saros and team spirit can carry this team.
Strengths: obviously goalie Juuso Saros, HPK is going to need him at his best
Weaknesses: their quality in attack is very limited and HPK is short on players who have capacity to decide matches. If the trio Saarinen, Hamill, Somervuori is out of form it’s difficult to see anyone else being able to help either.
The Surprise: defender Petteri Nikkilä has played a great and balanced season and is a very important piece of HPK this season
The Performer:attacker Tuomas Vänttinen, who is a player any hockey fan would love to watch. He would rather eat the puck than let it go to his own goal. The best player in Liiga in the role he has and indispensable to HPK right now. Every time he’s on ice he gives 100% to his own team.
The Disappointment: defender Aleksi Laakso has failed to fill the role he was expected to
This is a really strong view against one of the hottest teams in Liiga right now, but it simply feels impossible to see Blues to continue this forever. They have been so lucky, but one has to admit that Blues have also been enjoying of some great goaltending lately. They are playing in the limits of their skills every night and success has fed the players even to play above that. We think this is what Blues is about right now.
Strengths: goalies Laurikainen / Nieminen (who has finally found a steady level) has been very strong and Blues need them to continue on this path if they are to succeed
Weaknesses: the player material is simply not good enough, they have to perform at the 100% level every single evening. Key players have been stressed a lot as well.
The Surprise: defender Otso Rantakari. He’s a real power-play threat and one could even call him a power-play specialist.
The Performer: attacker Kim Hirschovits has been solid and when he has a good day he’s a really good attacker and a key man in Blues
The Disappointment: defender Olli Malmivaara. He was hopeless earlier this season, improved lately, but still making way too many mistakes
Ilves have been playing on about a level we have expected and they don’t simply have quality in the roster to go any higher than this. The quality of goalkeepers is the main thing separating Ilves from HPK + Blues duo. Ilves is a hard-working team who can often fight well against any team in the league, but only fight. And not able to turn their efforts into goals. The quality of attackers is just so much lower compared to the top teams.
Strengths: Ilves is going to win and lose with this hard-working style they have. There are no other weapons really in this team.
Weaknesses: goalkeeping and material in general.
The Surprise: Tapio Laakso. He’s been formerly known as a hard worker but now he was even selected as the player of the month in January. Laakso has been in a great form the past month.
The Performer: attacker Sami Sandell has been able to fill the expectations set for him. Defender Jarkko Näppilä has also been very good and is the defensive leader of Ilves.
The Disappointment: attacker Steven Zalewski. He has the attitude week after week but simply cannot score enough.
The bottom three is already “out of it” but we go through them quickly as well here.
We think Sport is the hungriest of the bottom 3 teams and that’s why we rate them above Pelicans. They have already shown at this point of the season they were worth the much-debated cabinet promotion. Sport is fighting well week after week and shows hunger, even if the player material is so, so very weak.
Pelicans have suffered so bad from injuries this season. They had also tons of bad luck and tight games turned so often to losses. This has eaten the team morale a lot during the whole campaign.
TPS has been a total farce this season. They have done everything wrong in Turku you can possibly do wrong. One could already see the signs of what is going to happen earlier this season. The leading players of this team were just playing for their selves and not for the team like we’ve written in our previews as well. But most of all TPS was lacking badly discipline, it was a bunch of players after individual glory and not playing for the team. Coach Elomo was put to a position he just couldn’t handle as an inexperienced coach. This season will remain in history as a really humiliating campaign.
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The January transfer window is now closed without any big drama, and most of the people following the transfer tickers yesterday were simply bored of the lack of proper action. Total spending of Premier League clubs reached £130m, which is in the same range as the previous two years (2014: £130m, 2013: £120m).
The biggest deal of the month was done already few weeks earlier, when Swansea sold their star striker Wilfred Bony to Manchester City with a £28m price tag. The Welsh club didn’t even get any loan players to replace him and will continue the 2014/15 with Bafetimi Gomis, who is yet to prove himself as a goal scorer in Premier League.
The biggest deadline day deal was the official signing of Colombian winger Juan Cuadrado; Chelsea splashed £23.3m and made very likely a good signing. Cuadrado was one of the Colombia’s top performers in the 2014 World Cup and provides a different type of option as the right-back for Mourinho. But Chelsea ended up making a profit anyway after selling Andre Schurrle to Wolfsburg for £22m and also got £10m from left-back Ryan Bertrand, whose transfer to Southampton was made permanent.
Other interesting signings are centre-back Gabriel Paulista from Villarreal (to Arsenal), striker Jermain Defoe making a come-back to Premier League (to Sunderland) and attacking midfielder Carles Gil, who tries to help Aston Villa to solve their attacking issues.
We also received interesting news right after the transfer window closed because QPR manager Harry Redknapp resigned all of sudden. He gave a knee injury as an official excuse but everyone will of course question that. Striker legend Les Ferdinand will be part of the coaching team who will guide R’s for now.
Here is our analysis of the transfers and also a betting guide per team for the remainder of the season.
Note: when talking about making profit for / against, it means backing asian handicaps with the closing odds of SBO and only Premier League matches are included.
Ins: Krystian Bielik (Legia Warsaw, undisclosed), Gabriel Paulista (Villarreal, £14m)
Outs: Lukas Podolski (Inter Milan, loan), Yaya Sanogo (Crystal Palace, loan), Joel Campbell (Villarreal, loan), Benik Afobe (Wolves, undisclosed), Matt Macey (Accrington, loan)
Transfer window had very little effect on Arsenal, but the signing of Gabriel Paulista should be a useful one and add quality to CB position, which hasn’t been their strength for sure. In general Arsenal is in a good form right now and they’ve also got some long-term absent players back such as Theo Walcott. Gunners are 9-1-1 from last 11 games in all competitions and won 5 in a row. This is not the best time to go against this team. So far you’ve made a bit of profit if backing overs for Arsenal but it’s a team in general that is so well priced you shouldn’t expect to make big bucks either way. Look for the inevitable injury drama to happen and how they cope without Alexis Sanchez (if he’s out).
Ins: Carles Gil (Valencia, undisclosed), Scott Sinclair (Manchester City, loan)
Outs: Darren Bent (Derby, loan), Gary Gardner (Nottingham Forest, loan), Daniel Johnson (Preston, undisclosed), Chris Herd (Wigan, loan), Jordan Graham (Wolves, undisclosed), Callum Robinson (Preston, loan)
Villa have tried to solve their attacking issues by signing two attacking midfielders in the transfer window. Carles Gil did great in his debut in FA Cup scoring a goal and looking like bringing something new to the team. He could even turn out to be one of the best signing of this transfer window: good value for the money and add strength exactly to the area where Villa needs it most. Scott Sinclair is one of these “lost talents”, who was a quick and promising guy few years ago but got stuck to Man City bench. If he finds his form he’d be useful player. Villa has been a gold mine to keep backing unders and you should continue that way; the 5-0 loss of Arsenal was the first match all season (=26 matches) which ended to higher than 3 goals. Villa cannot score but in general they don’t concede either despite constant defensive absences, and you’d make good profit backing unders in the future matches as well.
Ins: Michael Keane (Manchester United, undisclosed)
Outs: Alex Cisak (Leyton Orient, loan)
The transfer window was a very quiet one for Burnley. There were some rumors of Danny Ings transfer, but Clarets kept their striker star which is important for their survival. Michael Keane has been already in the team and now his move was made permanent. Burnley hasn’t been overall a cashing cow for or against this season and you’d look for situations if Danny Ings is injured or suspended. They have also kept playing with the same starting XI for months now and didn’t do any rotation in the heavy X-Mas schedule either. This might backfire in the spring rounds, look for signs of Burnley simply starting to look tired and then go aggressively against them.
Ins: Juan Cuadrado (Fiorentina, £26.1m)
Outs: Fernando Torres (AC Milan, undisclosed), Marko Marin (Anderlecht, loan), Mark Schwarzer (Leicester, free), Todd Kane (Nottingham Forest, loan), Nathaniel Chalobah (Reading, loan), Tomas Kalas (Middlesbrough, loan), John Swift (Swindon, loan), Andre Schurrle (Wollfsburg, undisclosed), Lewis Baker (Sheff Wed, loan), Alex Kiwomya (Barnsley, loan), Mohamed Salah (Fiorentina, loan), Stipe Perica (Udinese, loan), Ryan Bertrand (Southampton, £10m)
Chelsea made the biggest deadline day transfer by signing Cuadrado, who should be a very useful addition to Mourinho’s squad and give them a fresh option to flanks, especially to right side. This move won’t decide the title race alone but won’t hurt either. They didn’t lose any regulars, Schurrle & Salah being closest, but both have mostly just featured from the bench. It’s no surprise you make money in the long run by backing unders to Chelsea matches and this plan is valid as long as Mourinho is in charge. So far they’ve also covered handicap nicely which is a lot due to the early-season winning run. Just look for situations like last weekend where they played without both Costa and Fabregas and also matches right / before Champions League playoffs.
Ins: Yaya Sanogo (Arsenal, loan), Shola Ameobi (free agent), Jordon Mutch (QPR, undisclosed), Pape Souare (Lille, undisclosed), Andreas Breimyr (Bryne FK, undisclosed) Wilfried Zaha (Manchester United, undisclosed), Keshi Anderson (Barton Rovers, undisclosed), Lee Chung-yong (Bolton, undisclosed)
Outs: Stuart O’Keefe (Cardiff, undisclosed), Lewis Price (Crawley, loan), Jake Gray (Cheltenham, loan), Zeki Fryers (Rotherham, loan), Jack Hunt (Rotherham, loan), Andreas Breimyr (Bryne FK, loan), Peter Ramage (Barnsley, loan extension), Andy Johnson (released), Barry Bannan (Bolton, loan)
Crystal Palace have made quite a bit of signings but if you think of Premier League there is very little proven quality. Sanogo has been sitting on Arsenal bench, Ameobi shouldn’t start in any PL club, Mutch is a squad rotation guy and so on. Lee could be an interesting signing; he’s been great in Bolton in the past months. But, Palace have tons of attacking players already so do they really need even more of those? What comes to betting: there is a time before and after Alan Pardew. Palace has been transformed into a new team and you might very well see them make a run like they did last spring. This team should be high-scoring than earlier as well.
Ins: Aaron Lennon (Tottenham, loan)
Outs: Samuel Eto’o (Sampdoria, undisclosed), Chris Long (Brentford, loan), Hallam Hope (Bury, undisclosed), Matthew Kennedy (Cardiff, undisclosed), Conor McAleny (Cardiff, loan), Conor Grant (Motherwell, loan)
The loan of Aaron Lennon was one of the most significant moves of the deadline day and it tells a bit how boring day it was. Lennon has fell out of favor at Spurs and there are people who really like him (due to the speed), but many claim there never comes anything useful out of it. He won’t be a “game changer” but we’ll see if Everton can use him properly. Overall this has been a very disappointing season for EFC and you’ve so far made profit backing against them, but not much, since the market has picked this too. This whole season smells for one of those that will never really pick up the pace but they won’t go down either. Everton is one of the least interesting team in the PL right now.
Ins: Dame N’Doye (Lokomotiv Moscow, undisclosed)
Outs: Tom Ince (Derby, loan), Greg Luer (Port Vale, loan)
Hull have made only one move in the transfer market and that was to bring Lokomotiv Moscow striker N’Doye. Transfers like this are very difficult to rate before hand, but when looking at the current striker quality it’d be surprising if N’Doye wouldn’t be an improvement when starting. What comes to betting: Hull has been a poor team all season so it’s quite natural you’d have made decent profit going against them. There are no signs really this team would get out of this pit, even if their recent bad run is also partly due to injuries. Keep going against Hull but watch out of they change the manager, that could be the only thing saving this team.
Ins: Mark Schwarzer (Chelsea, free), Andrej Kramaric (Rijeka, £9m), Robert Huth (Stoke, loan)
Outs: Tom Hopper (Scunthorpe, loan extension), Jack Barmby (Rotherham, loan), Callum Elder (Mansfield, loan), Adam Dawson (Bristol Rovers, loan)
Leicester have made at least on useful signing and that’s CB Robert Huth, who have fallen in the pecking order at Stoke. He’s a decent quality CB for Premier League and strengthens the Leicester back line. Schwarzer is a very experienced back-up they can use if (and when) Kasper Schmeichel is out. Kramaric is a mystery really; he could be something and Leicester paid big money of his services. They made a good deal with FW Ulloa as well in the summer so I wouldn’t be shocked if Kramaric will be helpful too. So far this season you would have made lots of profit backing against Leicester every week but watch out this team seems to go really in streaks: either they lose to everyone or then they are in a good streak getting unlikely points. When the bad run starts again it’s good to be anti-Leicester. In general you’ve also profited from unders and that trend should continue as well; Leicester don’t often lose with a big margin and will struggle to score unless Kramaric goes wild for some reason.
Outs: Suso (AC Milan, undisclosed), Oussama Assaidi (Al Ahli Club, undisclosed), Connor Randall (Shrewsbury, loan), Kevin Stewart (Cheltenham, loan), Lloyd Jones (Cheltenham, loan), Jack Dunn (Cheltenham, loan), Sheyi Ojo (Wigan, loan)
Liverpool haven’t made any moves during the transfer window which would matter at all. In betting the season has been very much divided in two: Reds have now lost just one out of previous 18 matches and totally transformed to a new team, when manager Rodgers started to try 3-4-3 formation. One MASSIVE bonus you should also remember: they get striker Daniel Sturridge back, who’s been out practically the entire season. So, not only they lost Suarez but also Sturridge – no wonder goals haven’t come. Expect value to be more on Liverpool than against them in the near future.
Ins: Wilfried Bony (Swansea, £28m)
Outs: Matija Nastasic (Schalke, loan), Scott Sinclair (Aston Villa, loan), Devante Cole (MK Dons, loan), George Evans (Scunthorpe, loan), Sinan Bytyqi (SC Cambuur, loan), Jordy Hiwula (Walsall, loan)
Man City have made the biggest signing of the transfer window when they acquired Ivory Coast international striker Bony from Swansea. This happened already few weeks back when Bony traveled to AFCON, so he hasn’t played a match yet. Bony was the top scorer of calendar year 2014 in the Premier League and now 3/4 highest scorer of that period are wearing a Man City shirt (Bony, Dzeko, Aguero). So far there haven’t been any significant trends in with City if you look at the season so far, and the best bet out of for / against / over / under has been to back for Man City. But keep one thing in mind; City have been struggling badly without Yaya Toure, and even when he’s back from AFCON it’ll take some time to recover. Hence, City might be on their best only after 2-3 weeks or so. Watch also if market overreacts to signing of Bony based on some 1-2 high-scoring games first.
Ins: Victor Valdes (free agent), Sadiq El Fitouri (Salford City, undisclosed), Andy Kellett (Bolton, loan)
Outs: Michael Keane (Burnley, undisclosed), Will Keane (Sheff Wed, loan), Ben Amos (Bolton, loan), Joe Rothwell (Blackpool, loan), Marnick Vermijl (Sheff Wed, undisclosed), Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace, undisclosed), Ben Pearson (Barnsley, loan), Sam Johnstone (Preston, loan), Jesse Lingard (Derby, loan), Saidy Janko (Bolton, loan), Darren Fletcher (West Brom, free transfer)
Manchester United spent so much cash on summer it’s understandable they haven’t made any investments now. Some big names like Gareth Bale are being rumored to join but nothing happened for now. Experienced GK Valdes came in as a free agent as a good back-up for De Gea. Betting-wise you can split the United season in half; the first part they were a cashing cow to go against but during the past 2 months you’ve made money going for the Red Devils. I think this trend is going to continue; United suffered also badly from injuries earlier, but now they got everyone fit and even Falcao scoring – it’s unlikely Van Gaal’s men would get derailed now. In general it’s a tough team to find value for in practice but don’t go against them too much at least.
Outs: Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa (Roma, £5.5m), Hatem Ben Arfa (released), Davide Santon (Inter Milan, loan), Kevin Mbabu (Rangers, loan), Haris Vuckic (Rangers, loan), Remie Streete (Rangers, loan), Shane Ferguson (Rangers, loan), Gael Bigirimana (Rangers, loan)
Nothing has basically happened at the St James’ Park; Ben Arfa, Santon and Yanga-Mbiwa haven’t featured in the squad, so their absences don’t mean anything. Rest are mostly U21 guys. We received the bigger news from NUFC camp already weeks ago when manger Alan Pardew surprisingly joined another PL club, Crystal Palace. Even more surprising was the news that Newcastle decided to go the rest of the season with the caretaker boss John Carver. But so far Newcastle have played very well under him even it took 4 matches to actually win a game. If they can keep this up NUFC might actually be a bit underrated in the coming months.
Ins: Mauro Zarate (West Ham, loan), Ryan Manning (Galway, compensation)
Outs: Jordon Mutch (Crystal Palace, undisclosed), Max Ehmer (Gillingham, loan extension), Bruno Andrade (Stevenage, loan)
Mauro Zarate is the only signing which has any importance here but it might be he won’t deliver much in QPR either. As written in the introduction part, the biggest news happened after the transfer window when manager Harry Redknapp resigned. Fans have been saying he doesn’t have his heart with the club anymore and hasn’t had in few years. They could be very well right. From betting point of view you’d carefully check where this team is heading now and what the effect Redknapp’s departure has. I think it’ll be positive and especially if they get Tim Sherwood as the manager, who is rumored. Watch out for QPR – they might surprise teams now and finally break the horrible away-match record!
Ins: Eljero Elia (Werder Bremen, loan), Filip Djuricic (Benfica, loan), Ryan Bertrand (Chelsea, £10m)
Outs: Jack Cork (Swansea, £3m), Jos Hooiveld (Millwall, loan)
Southampton have done excellent signings this season and many people expected this team to even collapse at 2014/15 after having to give up so many of their star players. Eljero Elia has already scored two goals after his debut and I have a feeling Djuricic will be a good addition as well. Manager Koeman is doing excellent work with this team. It’s a bit surprising Cork was allowed to go because they don’t have fit central midfielders now and have to use one U21 guy in his place. Overall Southampton should continue on their solid path and even if they messed up the Swansea match last weekend, the overall result is nice profit if you have kept backing this team every week. And this trend should continue.
Ins: Philipp Wollscheid (Bayer Leverkusen, loan)
Outs: Maurice Edu (Philadelphia Union, undisclosed), Ryan Shotton (Derby, undisclosed), Robert Huth (Leicester, loan), George Waring (Barnsley, loan)
Nothing interesting happening here really, Wollscheid in and Huth out, this doesn’t change the strength of Stoke. The big news happened unfortunately last week when Stoke lost their star midfielder Bojan for the rest of the season. The summer signing had just found his best form and now the whole campaign is ruined. Stoke has been for long time a team which market does not put a high value on and there are often moves against them as well. But, we can just give you one advice: keep backing Stoke every week and you will cash in nice profit after every single season. So far so good with 2014/15 campaign as well.
Ins: Jermain Defoe (Toronto, undisclosed)
Outs: Jozy Altidore (Toronto, undisclosed), Mikael Mandron (Shrewsbury, loan), Charis Mavrias (Panathinaikos, loan), Scott Harrison (Hartlepool, undisclosed), Cabral (released)
Sunderland made certainly an interesting signing when they brought back former Spurs striker Jermain Defoe. He should be still a useful guy but they paid hell of a lot of money. Defoe is not going to solve Sunderland’s scoring issues alone and they would have needed simply more strength in attack. The good thing is they finally got rid of Altidore, who went other way to Toronto. This season Sunderland has been a profitable team if you have backed them on handicap + unders to each game. Black Cats don’t score much but they rarely collapse as well, hence U2.5 scores keep coming also due to several low-scoring draws. I don’t see this trend really changing and keep focusing to old trick; watch out Sunderland when they are favs and seek value when they are underdogs.
Ins: Kyle Naughton (Tottenham, £5m), Jack Cork (Southampton, £3m), Nelson Oliveira (Benfica, loan), Matt Grimes (Exeter, undisclosed)
Outs: Wilfried Bony (Manchester City, £28m), Rory Donnelly (Tranmere, loan), Ryan Hedges (Leyton Orient, loan), Liam Shephard (Yeovil, loan), Jazz Richards (Fulham, loan)
Swansea have made couple of useful signings to the defensive department; both RB Naughton and CB/DM/CM Jack Cork should be useful guys in this team and proven, decent, Premier League quality players. The big question is in the other end of the pitch of course: they sold the prime jewel Bony but didn’t replace him. This was probably a smart choice, though. Swansea can’t get relegated really and they have already lost the touch top 4. Hence, it’ll be a mediocre season anyway so why not just do proper signing at summer. Swansea has been so far mostly profitable from unders and now when Bony is out this should even get better. Pick Swans as your under-idea team for the rest of the season! Their defense is good anyway and they won’t be scoring many goals for sure.
Ins: Dele Alli (MK Dons, undisclosed)
Outs: Kyle Naughton (Swansea, £5m) Milos Veljkovic (Charlton, loan), Dominic Ball (Cambridge, loan), Kenneth McEvoy (Colchester, loan), Grant Hall (Blackpool, loan), Nathan Oduwa (Luton, loan), Jordan Archer (Millwall, loan), Emmanuel Sonupe (St Mirren, loan), Benoit Assou-Ekotto (released), Aaron Lennon (Everton, loan), Dele Alli (MK Dons, loan)
Nothing interesting going on at the White Hart Lane really, some youngsters have gone out of the door and Lennon as well but he hasn’t been a starting XI candidate for quite some time now. Spurs got so many players anyway they really should dump half a dozen guys off before adding any more so it’s not a surprise they haven’t bought anyone. Attack is still dangerously depending on Harry Kane, so if he gets injured who is going to score? So far you’ve made nice profits backing overs to Spurs matches each week and as long as Kane + Eriksen are fit, you’d continue doing so.
Ins: Callum McManaman (undisclosed), Darren Fletcher (Man Utd, free transfer)
Outs: Donervon Daniels (Aberdeen, loan), Bradley Garmston (Gillingham, loan), Luke Daniels (Scunthorpe, undisclosed)
West Bromwich have made couple of signings who won’t make a huge difference but should be pretty useful guys. McManaman was great in Wigan earlier this season and their top scorer as well, and he could be the attacking midfielder they’ve been lacking. Fletcher brings experienced to the central midfield. The biggest news for WBA came out already a month ago when they changed manager and living legend Tony Pulis took over. This appointment will influence betting as well since the trademark of Pulis has been to fix the defense first. And since WBA don’t have good attacking players that is how they’ll get points. You can pretty much forget all statistics until 1st of January 2015 and expect this team to be low-scoring and beat their closing handicaps often before the season ends. WBA is not a name anyone really likes so it’s very likely you keep getting nice value from them all season.
Ins: Doneil Henry (Apollon Limassol, undisclosed)
Outs: Mauro Zarate (QPR, loan), Ricardo Vaz Te (released), Sean Maguire (Accrington, loan), Jamie Harney (Colchester, free), Paul McCallum (Portsmouth, loan), Blair Turgott (released), Matthias Fanimo (released)
Nothing significant has happened here either. West Ham made also lots of signings last summer so there haven’t been many reasons to add to the squad now. They have all the ingredients needed and the big news is that key striker Diafra Sakho is also finally starting to get fit. He hasn’t been fully fit for 2 months and it’s no surprise West Ham have been in a poor trend as well. Overall you’ve made nice money backing West Ham but that’s mostly due to the good early season when market didn’t pick up their quality. Now I don’t see any clear trends coming to the remainder of the season and they’d end up pretty safely to 6th-8th position.
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In general it has still been a bit slow in Finland Veikkausliiga 2015 winter transfer market. It is due to the fact many of the top teams are still waiting for what happens in the big international transfer window in January. There are a couple of guys that could still move to brighter spotlights. HJK have for example informed that they are interested in recruiting more international players, but currently the club is forced to wait for what bigger boys are up to in January. Finnish transfer window will be closed until the end of February and will open again on 1st of March. Transfers can be made until the end of April.
Nnamaeka Anyamele, LB, FC Honka
Tommi Vesala, RB, MYPA
Otto-Pekka Jurvainen, MF, PK-35
Carljohan Eriksson, GK, HJK
Pekka Sihvola, CF, MYPA
Fredrik Lassas, CM, HJK
Youness Rahimi, CF, FC Honka
Jani Bäckman, CB, PK-35
Joni Korhonen, ST, PK-35
Jonathan Karlsson, MF
Anyamele got his self-confidence crushed under Shefki Kuqi in FC Honka last season and is now trying to make it as a wing back, earlier a pure winger. Could peak this season. Experienced Vesala is also a good addition from MYPA along Sihvola who’ll score a bunch of goals for HIFK, if avoids injuries. Lassas and Rahimi are young talents, who have capped in national youth teams. All in all the squad has gotten stronger and got more depth now. A couple of new signings are still to come. Rumors that ex-Honka CB Lum Rexhepi is close to getting a deal. Obviously strongest of the promoted teams.
Matti Klinga, CM, FC Lahti
Saku-Pekka Sahlgren, GK, RoPS
Joevin Jones, LW, end on loan
Ville Wallen, GK, retired
Teemu Tainio, DM
Sebastian Mannström, RW
Joel Perovuo CM
Roni Porokara, CF
Aristide Bance, CF
Klinga is a good addition to HJK midfield. Young and talented player, who has represented Finland in youth national teams. Sahlgren is clearly a 2nd option, which means HJK are still looking for a keeper that meets the international standards. Lot of old carriage left the club, which is basically just a positive sign.
Aleksei Kangaskolkka, CF, Heracles Almelo
Anthony Dafaa, DM, VPS
Walter Viitala, GK, FC Honka
Simon Nurme, G, retired
Luis Soliganc, CF, Club Atletico Progreso
Roger Thompson, CB, KSV Baumatal
Robin Östlind, AM, Oskarshamn
Tomas Hradecky, CM, RoPS
Dafaa for Hradecky, Kangaskolkka for Solignac, Wiitala for Nurme. On the spot signings, newcomers are pretty much off the same level. Kangaskolkka already scored in a friendly and will be battling for the golden boot.
Samu Nieminen, CB, FK Kruoja Pakruojis
Eero Korte, CM, FC Lahti
Jussi Kujala, DM, KuPS
Kevin Armstrong, head coach
Vahid Hambo, CF, FC Inter
Matti Jokinen, CF, TPV
Balazs Balogh, CB, Mezokoveds
Experienced Korte and Kujala in, but both have had a good bunch of injuries in the past and could sit many matches on the sidelines. No major changes in the squad so far as Ilves built the team for Ykkönen. Armstrong has been a tv-commentator last years and it is a big question mark how well he can manage a team that was supposed to play in 2nd tier.
Vahid Hambo, CF, Ilves
Jukka Lehtovaara, GK, TPS
Mathias Lindström, CB, PIF
Jere Koponen, GK, SJK
Francis Suarez, RW
Stefan Marinkovic, LB
Renan Oliveira, Sampaio Correra
Stealing Lehtovaara from arch rivals TPS was a big deal, but also a bit weird move as Inter already had experienced and solid Magnus Bahne in goal. Players that left, well, nothing to mention about. All in all it’s been very quiet in Turku and we can expect more signings before season kicks off in real, since the team needs more depth and quality to their squad.
Markus Kronholm, CM, JBK
Iidle Elmi, RW
Antti Palohuhta, ST
Alexander Tumasyan DM, JBK
Kevin Peth, RM
Fredrik Svanbäck, DM, Hoganäs
Hendrik Helmke, CM, Esteghlal
Ville Viljala, GK, EIF
Losing experienced Svanbäck and especially key player Helmke is a big deal for economically struggling Jaro. Other than that Jaro basically got rid of rotation players. Coach Eremenko will be looking to East once again. Aleksei does have the connections to find couple of Russian/Ukrainian guys as there are players for sure who want to move west-side, as the ruble is struggling. But those picks are also wild-cards and it is expected Jaro will be a weaker team than last season.
Jere Pyhäranta, GK, MYPA
Juuso Salonen, CB, Haka
Ilari Äijälä, LB, FC Honka
Jussi Aalto, CF, loan expired
KTP are still largely “in progress”. They were supposed to be an Ykkönen (1st div) club, but got promoted after Honka failing their license. This means KTP haven’t been too active in transfer scene. It is known KTP aren’t the best wage payers, which makes the club slightly less attracting to players. Pyhäranta is a solid keeper and were one of those good guys in MYPA last season. Äijälä is a solid full back, who’s good at set pieces and also experienced. Good signing. Losing Aalto after loan expired is a big minus, Aalto did score 25 goals last season and KTP are in a big need of a solid scorer. More signings are expected, for instance young talent Matias Ojala from AC Oulu has mentioned as an alternative.
Petteri Pennanen, LW, RoPS
Dani Hatakka, RB, FC Honka
Patrick Poutiainen, CM, Haka
Jerry Voutilanen, RB, VPS
Aleksi Paananen, CM, FC Lahti
Omar Colley, CB, Djurgården
Jussi Kujala, DM, Ilves
Losing Colley is a big deal as he was the star of the team for two seasons. KuPS need to sign a strong CB still. Finland U21-regular Hatakka luckily got out of FC Honka and will replace Voutilainen easily. Pennanen was injured for most of the last season and it remains to see if he can shake that off truly. At least he’s returning to familiar environment. Missing Paananen is a slight minus, but all in all KuPS are pretty much off the same quality than last season. Expect to see couple of more signings later in the spring.
Aleksi Paananen, CM, KuPS
Mika Ääritalo, LW, TPS
Mikko Kuningas, AM, PEPO
Pekka Lagerblom, DM, Ånge IF
Jussi Länsitalo, ST, FSV 08 Bissingen
Ariel Ngueugam, CF, SJK
Matti Klinga, CM, HJK
Loorents Hertsi, LW, VPS
Eero Korte, CM, Ilves
Pyry Kärkkäinen, RB
Hafid Salhi, DM
Kimmo Hovi, CF
Lot of action in Lahti in pre-season. Lagerblom is an experienced player and was great when played in IFKM two years ago, but he’s had several problems with his knees and could be sidelined a bit too often. Ääritalo was good two years ago in TPS, but after returning from loan his performances were below par. Paananen is a promising young player and I expect him to step up under Korkeakunnas, who’s great in motivating his players. But losing “Tuco” to SJK is a big blow. I just can’t see Rafael, Länsitalo and probably Ristola (rumored to sign) do well in front. Klinga was an influential player as well, where as Korte and Hertsi weren’t. At this point FC Lahti are ranked 3rd, but they need some spot on signings still so that they could be able to truly challenge HJK and SJK.
Tomas Hradecky, CM, IFKM
Petteri Pennanen, LW, KuPS
Nicholas Otaru, RM, FC Honka
Ndukaku Udoka Alison, CB
Antti Peura, LB, AC Oulu
Saku-Pekka Sahlgren, GK, HJK
Emenike Mbachu, LM, Naxxar Lions
Not too much happening in Northern city of Rovaniemi. Yet. Hradecky is a good addition to the team as RoPS did struggle in central midfield last season. Several test players will be introduced in League Cup (GK, strikers). The players who left aren’t a big concern as Pennanen was mostly injured, while Otaru, Emenike and Sahlgren were merely performing below par. When given a chance. Alison is a slight minus and RoPS definitely need a new CB, even though Hradecky is able to take that position as well.
Ariel Ngueugam, CF, FC Lahti
Jere Koponen, GK, FC Inter
Jussi Vasara, AM, FC Honka
Mehmet Hetemaj, CM, AC Monza
Luis Fernando, GK, retired
Gert Kams, RB, FC Flora
Matti Lähitie, DM
Justin Moose, AM, Wilmington
Ville Viljala, GK, EIF
Jussi Aalto, CF, TPS
Felipe Aspergren, LB
Juho Mäkelä, CF
Timo Rauhala, RB
SJK have made very spot-on recruitments. Ariel “Tuco” Ngueugam will fit SJK playingwise really well and it would be surprising, if he won’t score 10+ goals. Jussi Vasara has got a versatile and rather long injury history, but if he stays fit, he’s a great addition. Hetemaj is also a good DM to Veikkausliiga level – as long as he’s got his head straight and is fully motivated. I wouldn’t be too worried about the players who left. They are mostly rotation guys and for instance Mäkelä was a big disappointment last season and Kams didn’t have a strong one either. All in all last season’s 2nd team is getting closer to HJK. At the moment SJK would challenge them fully when it comes down to title contention.
Jerry Voutilainen, RB/AM, KuPSa
Eero Tamminen, CF, TPS
Loorents Hertsi, LW, FC Lahti
Mikko Viitikko, CB, HJK
Pyry Soiri, CF, MYPA
Anthony Dafaa, DM, VPS
Cheyne Fowler, DM, Haka
Tamminen is a young and talented guy, Soiri just young. Hertsi is a very up and down player, but could improve under coach Huttunen. Voutilainen as well was a big talent, but has faded a bit in last years. I see potential in VPS’ signings, but they are question marks as well. Losing Dafaa and Fowler doesn’t mean a chicken poo. Materially VPS might not be quite as strong as in recent years, especially if Strandvall gets a deal elsewhere.
At this point when League Cup is about the kick off, SJK are pretty close to HJK and these two teams should be ranked clearly in the top. Followed then by FC Lahti a bit further. Then there’s a clear gap to IFKM, KuPS and VPS, who are followed up by FC Inter.
Ilves, HIFK, RoPS, Jaro and KTP form the bottom-five. Out of these Ilves might be surprisingly ok, because the team hasn’t changed too much and Armstrong is known for defensively oriented tactics. It’ll take a while from HIFK to get the best out result-wise, since there have been quite many changes in their opening XI, but expect them to improve closer the season gets.
At this point Jaro and KTP seem to be the weakest links, but things might change fast after new signings.
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