Rovaniemi vs Lokomotiva by DamirJ
Rovaniemi had almost perfect previous season, as the team came really close to win the title, but lost it in last three rounds, when they made a huge setback and stood behind at the table. In the end, they finished second at the table, with only a point less than SJK, but also being a point above most reputable side in Finland, HJK Helsinki. After having such a season, there's no doubt that the team entered the new one with strong ambitions as well, but it will be almost impossible to repeat the previous one and to fight again for the title.
That's completely obvious now, since the team currently stands only at sixth position, having three points less than third placed VPS, while their title battle and race is already over, having eleven points less than leaders from Mariehamn and HJK. However, the side has improved in previous few weeks, coming from three straight victories and are undefeated in last seven competitive matches. They did well in the first round of Europa League to exclude Shamrock Rovers, thanks to positive performance in the first leg when they won on the road 2:0.
As for the returning leg, it was quite a defensive game from them, as the outcome was almost already known, with the Irish side taking the lead in 22nd, but the Finnish club responded just five minutes via Muinonen. Overall impression from these two legs was that the players of Rovaniemi were better and simply did what was asked from them, not impressing completely, but doing a proper job. Home side is happy not to have fresh injury nor suspension problem ahead of this game. Midfielders Makitalo (10/0) and Saxman (14/2) are more of long term absentees.
Lokomotiva Zagreb also had quite a positive previous season, as the team reached the quater-finals of Croatian Cup being excluded against Rijeka, while the team finished fourth in the league. Behind much more quality sides as Dinamo Zagreb, Rijeka and Hajduk, which are usually taking the top three positions in Croatian league.
Croatian side already had to play in first round of Europa League, winning easily over team from Andorra Santa Coloma with a 7:2 aggregate result. The side won 3:1 on the road and assured the ticket for the second phase with a 4:1 home victory last week. Players like Maric (three goals in two matches) and Prenga (two), but also Coric and Peric have showed decent form for early stage of the season, while there was no doubt that the players of Lokomotiva were far more superior during all 180 minutes.
After the returning leg, team went on and won over Slovenian side NK Krka 2:1 in the friendly game played last weekend. Their championship is set to start this weekend, so the team is close to their competitive form.
Lokomotiva is known for a bit more easier approach and quite attacking style, so it won't be much of a surprise if we see them quite competitive and attacking here. Something that the home side will need to respond at, so I believe the game itself will be much more open minded than what the bookies suggest.