Ostersunds v Norrkoping | Saturday 27th June 2020, 14:00
We’re three games into the Swedish Allsvenskan campaign, behind closed doors of course, and already we’re seeing Norrkoping looking likely to emerge as a title contender in the months to come. They’re the only side with a 100% winning record so far, and that includes a fine 4-1 away victory at AIK Stockholm, whilst also defeating reigning champions Djurgarden 3-0 at home last time out.
Norrkoping finished fifth last season but that were in fact only nine points behind the eventual league winners, so there clearly there wasn’t a great deal of tinkering required to turn this outfit into a team that can go far this season. If early season signs are anything to go by, then the club could very much win their first league title since 2015.
Ostersunds on the other hand are enduring a bit of a tough start to the campaign. We all know about how the club got to where they are today, with current Brighton boss Graham Potter getting onto the managerial map when guiding the club into the top flight and European football, but those days won’t be returning any time soon.
They’re winless in three, but perhaps most notably they’re yet to score a goal either. Losing away to Hammarby is no disgrace, but they failing to score against fairly run of the mill outfits like Sirius and Orebro will be a concern to current manager Ian Burchnall. The numbers suggest that they’re ultimately not creating enough in front of goal to threaten breaking their scoring duck, so vast improvement is required.
Expecting that to occur when the hottest team in the league come to town this weekend may present a hurdle too big to overcome. Norrkoping have netted seven goals in two games against two of the top four from last season, so it looks pretty ominous for Saturday in that regard.
However, Ostersunds clearly will score a goal at some point! The worry about backing an away win outright this weekend however is purely the fact that all good and bad things must come to an end, and this league is known for surprise outcomes and therefore I have reservations about backing any team at odds-on away from home.
However, there is an odds-against way of getting Norrkoping on side, and that is purely based upon them leading at half-time. Norrkoping to be leading at the first-half interval is priced 13/10 (William Hill) and that is the way I prefer to focus on this game.
It would be just typical for them to romp past two top sides in recent weeks and then perhaps find this type of clash more of a tougher assignment. One plus for Norrkoping is that Ostersunds won’t just sit back here, and they will have a go.
The swinging factor for me is that Norrkoping have netted seven of their nine goals this season within the opening 45 minutes, so that suggests they have a real go early doors and then take more of a conservative approach to try and see out the game. That could invite pressure, which I why I won’t go as far as HT/FT for the away team.
Ostersunds have only conceded four goals themselves, and actually only once in the first-half, but only one team has the momentum at this moment in time.
Aluminij v Celje | Saturday 27th June 2020, 19:00
We’re coming into the home straight in the Slovenian top-flight and Aluminij versus Celje on Saturday night presents us with an intriguing top four encounter. Celje hold the advantage going into this one, four points to be exact as they possess the final European qualification spot ahead of Aluminij in fourth spot. The hosts really need to try and win this one, and a defeat could end their top three prospects.
Since returning from the enforced three-month break, Aluminij have had a tough time of it. Across their first four matches when coming back, they suffered four defeats; three in the league and also their domestic cup competition. They were outscored 12-1 within that encounters, so things couldn’t really have gone any worse.
However, last weekend they won 4-1 away to relegation-threatened Triglav and they’ll be hoping to back that up.
Celje were in excellent form prior to the virus taking its place across the globe, so from a footballing perspective they really didn’t want a halt on proceedings. They only returned from the usual winter break in February and would go on a five-game unbeaten run, including a home win over title contenders Maribor. They doubled that up when football did return again however, as a few weeks ago they won 1-0 at Olimpija Ljubljana, who are another serious title challenger.
Celje themselves are only four points off the top, so they’re very much in the hunt themselves, but they’ve never won this league before and many doubt their ability to go the distance, but they’ll relish the challenge.
A bit of a grumble for Celje is they’re two without a win, and the disappointing home draw to Tabor Sezana was in a funny way more of a bad result than losing away to Mura, who are in fifth place. I do actually like the look of them to get the win this weekend and I’m happy to tip them up at a price of 6/4 (Bet365).
I do think this resembles a decent bit of value when you consider Aluminij are on a four-match losing streak at home in all competitions. My worry for them is that they’ve just not returned from the break in a convincing enough fashion to truly believe they can win this game. A little stat which also puts me off is that Aluminij are ranked third-lowest in the league for entries into the opponents half, which is a surprise considering they’re sit in fourth.
Celje lead the league in relation to ball recoveries, whilst Aluminij are third-highest in lost balls in own half. Just little numbers like this, as well as Celje ultimately being highest-scorers just gives me hope of Celje winning this one. The hosts have too many question marks around them in my eyes.
Ostersunds v Norrkoping – Norrkoping First Half (13/10 William Hill)
Aluminij v Celje – Celje (6/4 Bet365)