By Chris Johns
Nõmme Kalju v Pärnu Linnameeskond
Expect goals in this one. Of Kalju’s five games, only one has had less than three goals (2-0 win over Flora, Matchday 5). More notably, all of Pärnu’s matches have had four goals or more, and three of their five have featured seven goals.
Kalju’s season couldn’t have started better results-wise, though injuries to key players (most notably Vladimir Voskoboinikov) could threaten to derail their 100% record. A 2-0 win over rivals Flora at the weekend showed that their strength in depth can cover them in times of crisis, and they will feel another win is well within their reach tonight.
Pärnu have had a very mixed start. Thrashings by Narva Trans (5-2), Viljandi Tulevik (5-2) and Sillamäe Kalev (6-1) sandwiched a good 4-2 win over Tammeka and a 2-2 draw with Paide. They will be looking for results over their nearest rivals to secure safety, and matches against the big boys will surely be a case of damage limitation for their goal difference column. Robert Kirss, who moved from Kalju to Pärnu in pre-season, has spoken of his side’s confidence in going to Hiiu and nicking a result. It’s hard to share his confidence.
(Suspended: Kaarel Kaarlimäe)
RdS predicts: Kalju 6 – 1 Pärnu Linnameeskond
Narva Trans v Paide Linnameeskond
Five points from their opening three games got Narva off to a good start, but a 1-0 defeat to Flora preceded a disappointing 3-1 loss against Tammeka in their last game. They will be looking for a more stable season this time around, and they will feel a visit from Paide is what they need to get back on track. Some solid signings should see them achieve safety earlier than 2014, but some early consistency is needed to keep them away from the early trapdoor flirters. They are already seven points off European qualification, but time will tell what a realistic target is for Estonia’s most Easterly side.
(Suspended: Vitali Andrejev)
Paide have struggled in their first five games (just one point secured) and are paying for a poor pre-season in terms of recruitment. Vjatseslav Zahovaiko has been their star signing, and he is already showing his ability to conjure up goals from almost nowhere (he has scored four of Paide’s six goals this season), but he can’t be expected to do it all on his own as the season goes on. A trip to Narva is a game they will have expected to be competitive in, but they will need to use their mini-comeback against Infonet, which they ultimately surrendered again, as a springboard to start on the front foot. They are currently propping up the table, but a win could see them jump up to 7th if results go their way.
RdS predicts: Narva Trans 2 -1 Paide Linnameeskond
Tartu Tammeka v FC Flora
Tartu have stemmed the tide of three defeats from their opening three games by taking four points from their last two. A good 3-1 win over Narva Trans last time out gives them a bit of momentum going into this match against a team who are reeling from a derby defeat. Martin Hurt has three goals in five games and will be looking to upset the family apple cart.
FC Flora are the joint second lowest scorers in the league (seven goals scored, the same as Narva and Viljandi, one more than Paide and Infonet), but they have the leanest defence (just two conceded). A 2-0 defeat to title rivals Kalju at the weekend brought to an end their 100% start to the season, and they need to use their frustration to get back on track. This is a game they are expected to win and it will be interesting to see how they bounce back from their weekend loss. Sappinen and Logua account for five of Flora’s goals so far, with Tukiainen proving a valuable acquisition with two goals from the subs bench.
RdS predicts: FC Flora 2 – 0 Tammeka Tartu
FC Infonet v Tulevik Viljandi
Life after Manucho has been slow for Infonet after they failed to score in their first three matches. Six goals in their last two, however, could be the catalyst for their revival, although they made it difficult against Paide last time out; They threw away a commanding 2-0 lead in the final stages, only to score twice more themselves to secure the points. The front three of Hajdari, Harin and Mashichev look to be clicking, and Juri Jevdokimov bagged his first goal for the Tallinn side on Saturday to strengthen their credentials.
Two defeats to nil in their first two games were followed by a 6-2 hammering at Kalju, before Viljandi secured their first points with a 5-2 defeat of Pärnu. They went down 2-0 to Levadia at the weekend and are learning quickly that life in the top league can be tough for newly-promoted sides. Their best chance of survival, as with Pärnu, will be to take points from teams around them whilst preserving their goal difference in matches against the bigger clubs. They will be expected to lose here, but if they can stifle Infonet as other teams have managed for as long as possible they might be in with a squeak. It isn’t on the cards, though.
RdS predicts: FC Infonet 3 – 0 Tulevik Viljandi