AIK vs Malmo by Sweem
All eyes from the Swedish football audience will likely be in Solna, where the hosts AIK will take on the current leaders Malmo FF in a very attractive match, not least due to the current table position. AIK have been difficult to beat this season with only two losses, which is actually fewer than Malmo has to date. However, at home soil it has been tricker to escape with the victories as their 2-4-0 record clearly implies.
Many of the struggles were also visible in the Europa League qualifiers where AIK hosted College Europa from Gibraltar and just narrowly escaped the same headlines as Celtic received after losing against Lincoln from Gibraltar the other day. AIK still won the game with 1-0 but in reality, it was not a one way street. Perhaps was half of the focus already on the big clash with Malmo, and in that case - this game is a thriller.
Before the Euro break, AIK made a decision to sack their coach Andreas Alm, and instead take in Rikard Norling - a coach who is known for his very analytical answers in interviews, as he has an unique way to express himself. He has two and a half seasons as head coach in Malmo as well, so Norling definitely knows his opponent this time.
With the exception of the Europa League match recently, AIK did show some struggle against Kalmar FF in their previous Allsvenskan fixture, where Kalmar has twice as many shots on target and also dominated possession heavily at 62%. It is not like AIK to be the one who chase the matches, but this is what has been happening lately.
At the end of the day AIK are still top contenders as they have both experience and young talent to compete among the top. At the moment it is just the full performance that is missing, and to try and find a identity to stick to. Rikard Norling will need more than a handful of matches to fully get this unit together, but the material is solid to work with. Players such as the midfielder Ebenzeer Ofori, Denni Avdic and Stefan Ishizaki has been around the league for a long time and always make a threat for anyone visiting the Friends Arena.
AIK will be able to field a competitive team as they do not suffer from any important absentees to date.
Malmo began the season very sloppy and were quickly given the flop stamp in media. Sometimes that is just what major clubs needs to get going, and Malmo certainly used it as fuel rather than being dragged down in the mess. They have now left the field victorious in 9 of their last 10 league matches and moreover, kept a clean sheet in 7 of them, which has also contributed to the fact that Malmo possess the best defensive record in the league and have also scored the most goals in the league.
While this sounds like a top team, Malmo have not always impressed, but have sometimes gotten away with the greasy narrow victories, like top teams needs at times. Coach Allan Kuhn has tried to implement his team pressing and straightforward-attitude when in possession, and it looks like if this is finally settling in the team.
The visitors will not have any major absentees, as the ones missing are midfielder Tobias Sana (5/0), wing back Andreas Vindheim (0/0) and newly arrived left back Behrang Safari (0/0) from Basel. This is a giant game from a Swedish perspective, two teams who believe they are the best in the country, and the same goes for the supporter groups. This time, we even have the coach ingredient - both teams have relatively new coaches on their positions and up until now, Allan Kuhn has been the more successful one.
Malmo are very difficult to beat at the moment, even when they have a "off day" - their record of 10-0-3 speaks for itself, as they have not played a single draw this season. In big games, Malmo have shown an ability to step up a notch and play smart. Not to mention that Malmo is a way more finished product than AIK, and as such should clearly have the upper hand even in a road game against a tough opponent.
Both teams will try to avoid a loss, and for that reason the draw is also a close possibility but if any team is going to be close to win this, Malmo is the realistic call. As such, a slight lean for the visitors for me this time. More importantly, enjoy a big game!