Score in the series - 0-1
Stadium: Bolt Arena (Helsinki)
Finland's champion HJK could not oppose Fenerbahce in the 1st match of the Europa League, but lost with a narrow score of 0-1. Will the Scandinavian club be able to make a comeback in the return leg game?
HJK were eliminated from the Champions League in the 2nd round of qualification, but thanks to the victory over Neftchi in the Europa League they guaranteed themselves a place in the group stage of European cups. At the same time, the club from Helsinki has strengthened its ;lineup quite well for playing in the international arena: Tim Sparv played for the Finland national team for a long time and managed to play in the Netherlands, Greece, Denmark, England and Germany, and Patrik Raitanen was listed in the Liverpool and Italian SPA. Daniel O'Shaughnessy is still one of the leaders of the club, and in addition to him, forward Santeri Hostikka was called up to the national team. Attacking midfielder Atomu Tanaka is in the Sickbay: he has played 21 games in all competitions this year.
Toni Koskela's side have won four of their last five matches in all competitions, and they are firmly in the lead in the Finnish championship. Last round, HJK defeated Lahti 1-0 in an away match. Already on the 7th minute the club from Helsinki took advantage of a rough mistake of the defenders and took the lead, after which they owned the initiative for a long time. By the end of the first half the opponent failed to capitalize on two good chances, and one of the episodes was saved by the bar. After the break, the team could have doubled their lead, but David Brown failed to convert a one-on-one opportunity. In the end the capital squad strongly pressed on their own goal and somehow fought back. Many key players started the game on the bench, which is probably why it was so hard for HJK.
Last season, Fenerbahce was really close to qualifying for the Champions League. The team finished third, two points behind Besiktas and Galatasaray. The team has room for reinforcements, while some changes have already taken place. The Istanbul club is led by Vitor Pereira, who had previously worked with Fenerbahce and also coached Porto and Olympiacos. There have been no major purchases so far, and we should probably expect more decisive steps from the management closer to the closing of the transfer window. Mesut Ozil may be able to step up, because last season was halted due to injuries. The German midfielder has already scored a goal and provided a useful pass in the league this season while Fenerbahçe have won both Superleague rounds.
In their last game, Vitor Pereira's side beat Antalyaspor 2-0 at home. Fenerbahce took a total of 21 shots on goal, but for a long time they could not break the defense. Only in the 89th minute, the team took the lead thanks to a Miha Zajc goal, and Enner Valencia soon doubled the lead. The team had no problems defensively, although the opponents were sometimes too comfortable in Fener's penalty area. The victory over Antalyaspor was the fourth in a row in all competitions, and the unbeaten streak reached the mark of 11 matches.
Expert betting tips
Despite the modest score in the first match, there were numerous gaps in HJK's defense, and the opponent simply could not take advantage of it. Perhaps the visitors' coach will find some solutions and slightly restructure the game, but it won't be easy to win again. Fenerbahce have a lot of losses: Kahveci, Pelkas, Dursun and Novak are injured, and some players are not eligible for European competitions. HJK looks good at home and the series of 12 games without losses during regular time is impressive. I suggest the following betting options:
- Both teams to score for 1.83;
- Total over 2.5 for 2.03;
- Fenerbahce to win for 2.20.