’The derby will be decisive. I don’t want to guess because those games have been very even but I think the side that will win the derby, will carry on and be the Champions.’ Thus spoke Magnus Pehrsson, the Estonian national team coach and we could not agree the less.
The side that will come victorious out of the derby, will have the best chances to bring home their 9th (Levadia) or 10th (Flora) title.
What will happen in case the 'El Clasico' will give us another draw? It already happened 3 times this season (twice 1-1 and one 0-0) and the 2-point advantage of Levadia are certainly giving Marko Kristal the upper hand as they could leave A.LeCoq happily with one point.
The title run-in (check Chris Johns analysis here) will continue remotely.
INFOGRAPHICS: history of the Flora-Levadia derby clash here.
Focus on FC Flora (2/10, 73 pts)
This is probably one of the most important derby of the recent years. Not only winning would mean to regain the top of the table but it would also involve ending a long abstinence. Flora have not managed to win a game against Levadia in Premium Liiga since 2011, which corresponds to the last time they won the title. There will not be need to motivate his squad further, Norbert Hurt has already all he needs to make them understand how important the three points are. Probably, it will just be necessary to take the load of their shoulders to avoid they might sink under the weight of the responsibility. History, in the end, does not play. Only players do and they need to do it much better than in the derby against Kalju. The win against Infonet before the break came also after 90 minutes of suffering with Hurt having one of the worriest faces of a coach on TV. The way Logua's 3-1 goal was celebrated, it gave the idea of how the squad has been psychologically on a roller coaster. The international break brings back Karol Mets, strenghtened by his great performance against England and the appreciation received by Fulham's scout, Brian Talbot , it will certainly help in the fight against Levadia even though Karol will find his place back in the defensive line.
Injuries and suspensions
Norbert Hurt can count on all his squad exception made for Maksim Gussev, suspended after receiving a card against FC Infonet for a silly foul.
Hurt will opt for the typical 4-2-3-1 with all the regulars as shown in our expected XI board.
As seen against Kalju, Rauno is the player who can open the opposition's defence and has the pace to squander the defensive set-up of the Premium Liiga best defence (15 goals suffered in 32 games) he can try to increase his tally (2) in this challenge.
Focus on FC Levadia (1/10, 75 pts)
Contrary to one month ago, now their destiny in totally in their hands. The 2013 Champions have the chance to win the derby and dig a distance with Flora that could mean 'game over' for the city rivals. They have not been on top of the tables for too long this season (just once) however it was enough to jump on top in the right moment. Following that, they managed to kick out of the wagon the third contender (Kalju) and now are at the showdown with Hurt&Co. It's a second chance for Marko Kristal as losing now would mean hoping to see Flora falling from the top for a third time this season. However, it might not happen and it will certainly leave a bad taste in the mouth of the Levadia gaffer, so close to complete his second Estonian title as a coach, the second in a row. The stress will be put on committing as few mistakes as possible. Notwithstanding the happy ending delivered by Kruglov, there were few committed in the derby against Kalju: Podholjuzin absurd red card and Pikk's own goal could have compromised the season. However, Levadia's die-hard attitude brought the three points home in a game that was the copycat of last season's Levadia-Kalju. However, the final effort has to be made in A.LeCoq. Levadia's tradition in Flora's home ground is favourable, therefore playing away does not seem to affect them: 5 wins and one draw since the last time they lost (3-0 in 2011).
Injuries and suspensions
Omar El-Hussieny has recovered from the injury and is available for selection. Vukobratovic shall still be out for injury and at the moment Kristal seems confident to entrust his veteran, Alksandr Dmitrijev. Podholjuzin will watch the game from the stands due to suspension. His place might be taken by Artur Pikk, who can easily switch from left to right. Kristal might opt to give Kruglov the left full-back role with El-Hussieny up on the flank in the 4-4-2.
Key-man: Ingemar Teever
Maybe he is not the most graced striker we have seen on a football pitch, however when comes to bag an important goal in an important derby, Ingemar is always there. You can righteously call him the 'Derby Man' since he has scored at least two goals in all the three most important derbies and almost for all the three sides (he never played in Flora). He can be decisive in this one too.
Marko Kristal will be happy to give up one flank in order to stop Logua on the left and keep the battle open on the other side where both Alliku and El-Hussieny can be the cutting edge for each of their side. Kristal is also compelled by the squad situation considering that Teever is the only available striker and Subbotin has proven well in the role of second one. After all, Raudsepp can be offensive when he wants (two assists served against Kalju) therefore the duel against the opposite flankers will be open. In few words, we expect a lot of transitions on each flank with strikers (Prosa and Subbotin) helping the midfielders in the build-up. If inspired, Beglarishvili can give Flora that extra touch of fantasy and unpredictability that Levadia are missing. However, if not inspired, the Georgian nr.7 can make Levadia's life much easier.
Flora’s wins: 1 (Supercup)
Levadia’s wins: 2
Goals scored by Flora: 5
Goals scored by Kalju: 7
Most prolific Premium Liiga scorer(s) in Flora's rows: Albert Prosa (CF) 85 goals
Most prolific Premium Liiga scorer(s) in Levadia's rows: Ingemar Teever (FW) 127 goals
THE REFEREES SQUAD
(statistics courtesy of Heigo Niilop)
Top derby, top referee: Kristo Tohver.
246 games, 835 yellow cards (3,39) and a total of 71 red cards for the international referee (29 for a second yeallo and 42 straight ones).
Info about the game
Kick-off on Saturday the 18th of October at 16:00 EEST (15:00 CEST).
Entrance to A.LeCoq Arena is 4€.
The 50% discount is for students, kids up to 12 years old and pensioners.
Two free tickets are expecting Tele2 customers who received an invitation SMS from the company now sponsor of FC Flora.
Last time in A.LeCoq Arena, the crowd turnout was 2,610 (seasonal record). It will not be easy to hit the same number considering that the autumn weather has officially started and the temperatures have sensibly dropped. Additionally, the game will be broadcast on Estonian public TV (live streaming available here)