WHAT LIVE HERE!
Just few hours left until the Estonian football season kicks off again.
It’s not yet the real thing since Premium Liiga will commence on Friday with a real interesting clash: FC Infonet vs. FC Levadia.
However, the Supercup appetizer is not bad at all.
On one side we have the 9-time Champions of Levadia and on the other the surprise package of 2013-14 Estonian Cup, FC Santos Tartu.
The club from Esiliiga (second flight, they were promoted from third last season) earned a token to the Supercup after losing the Cup final in May against Levadia themselves. It was 4-0 back then ( a full report of that game here), and the gap hasn’t reduced since. When comes to Santos, we talk about an amateur team (this is a profile of the squad we drew last summer when they reached Europa League preliminaries) made up by office workers, students and even a security guard (captain Vellemaa).
It’s their third landmark in history of Estonian football since, with the runners-up title in May, they earned a token to Europa League. The home game in Tartu was already a tie-decider: 0-7 loss to Norwegian opposition Tromso IL.
But let’s check in details about each team.
(an extensive guide to the team for 2015 can be found here)
The Estonian Champions have the succulent chance of pulling level with Flora when comes to titles. 23 Flora, 22 Levadia. It seems the easiest of the tasks, however we’re in pre-season and the Levadia’s squad went under a complete makeover. Out of last season squad, only 11 players were left and the starting XI looks changed for half. The major changes were in goal (Smisko left for Russian Shirokov to step in) and in defence, except left full-back Artur Pikk, the remaining players are all new. Centre back Taavi Rähn jumped from Flora to Levadia, not a common move within the Estonian football rivalry however Flora was not willing to offer him a new stint at A.LeCoq Arena.
Marko Kristal is faithful to his 4-4-2 credo (the only coach in Estonia to implement this set-up) and now the choice will be about which wingers to choose and whether captain Teever will partner with new signing Kaimar Saag or Artur Rättel returning from a long-term injury.
Kristal wants his side to focus on everything, therefore he won’t spare the best men for Friday’s clash against FC Infonet. However, if he will manage to achieve the win already in first half, he might soon make some changes in the second.
The midfield pair shall be Raudsepp-Antonov.
Overall, the major quality and experience of the Levadia's XI (including several Estonian internationals) already suggests that winning this game it's not only mandatory but natural.
List of calls-up: Goalkeepers Priit Pikker (15.03.1986), Aleksei Shirokov (RUS, 06.04.1989) Kristjan Tamme (21.09.1995) Defenders Artjom Rahmanov (CB - BLR, 10.07.1990), Juuso Laitinen (CB - FIN, 09.01.1990) Artur Pikk (LB - 05.03.1993), Viktor Tolbuzov (CB/CMF - 05.08.1990), Taavi Rähn (CB - 16.05.1981), Ivan Pecha (RB/CB - SVK, 23.01.1986) Midfielders Andreas Raudsepp (CMF - 13.12.1993), Omar El Hussieny (LW/RW/AMF - EGY, 03.11.1985), Ilja Antonov (AMF - 05.12.1992), Maksim Lipin (RW - 17.03.1992) Siim Luts (LW - 12.03.1989), Rasmus Peetson (AMF - 03.05.1995), Pavel Marin (AMF -14.06.1995), Henry Rohtla (FW - 22.11.1991), Mark Oliver Roosnupp (AMF - 12.05.1997) Strikers Artur Rättel (08.02.1993) Ingemar Teever (24.02.1983) Kaimar Saag (05.08.1988)
Expected XI according to Rumori
Defence: Taavi Rähn 70% - Juuso Laitinen 30%
Midfield: Omar El-Hussieny 60% - Maksim Lipin 40%
Strikers: Kaimar Saag 70% - Artur Rättel 30%
(source of basic info Soccernet.ee)
With all the sympathy for the small club fromTartu which has already made the history of the city by being mapped in a UEFA competition, I cannot see how they are going to give troubles to a battleship like Levadia. Obviously, nothing can be given for granted in football, and Kristal knows himself that the credit with goddess Fortuna might be over. However Santos can only hope to bring Levadia to the interval on a goalless draw as that would be already an achievement for the white-red striped. If they do, Levadia could start becoming nervous and commit mistakes Santos need to exploit. Santos have lost the two Ukrainian talents (Vereschak and Fljak) and Taijo Teniste’s brother, Timo. Also Siim Valtna doesn’t seem to belong to the squad any longer. After hiring a Lithuanian coach for Europa League purposes, the team is back in the Estonian hands of Siim Säesk who was a goalkeeper at the club until last season. All in all, the squad has therefore impoverished compared to 2014 when they lost 4-0 in May. A compact 4-5-1 might help prolonging Levadia’s search for a opener and keep the score lower than at A.LeCoq Arena in late Spring.
Goalkeeprs Rene Sütt (25.09.1988), Ermo Ojaste (03.08.1992) Defenders Eero Eessaar (CB - 27.11.1989), Kaarel Kallandi (LB - 22.03.1989), Kenn Laas (LB - 01.05.1996), Siim Roops (CB - 04.03.1986), Jaanus Võrno (CB - 17.01.1990) Dmitri Kutsarev (CB - 13.01.1998) Midfielders Taavi Vellemaa (AMF/trequartista - 04.09.1987), Edvin Johannes Piirsalu (CMF - 06.04.1998), Joonas Kartsep (RW - 13.11.1997), Tarvo Laurson (CMF - 01.04.1988), Marko Sonn (RW - 29.10.1988) Strikers Alar Alve (31.01.1988), Mikk Laas (30.09.1990), Karl-Erik Vidaja (28.12.1997), Jarmo Aaviste (18.12.1998), Erik Vares (06.07.1990)
Expected XI according to Soccernet
Address: Asula 4, 11312 Tallinn
Sportland Arena on Foursquare
Completed in: n/a
Capacity: 500 ca.
It is the football pitch in front of the A.LeCoq Arena and serves as home for FC Flora until the grass in the bigger stadium is available for use (around April). The name comes from Sportland sport shops chain, one of the many sponsors of the Estonian FA.
It is also home to FC Levadia until Kadriorg’s grass is ready to host the Estonian Champions. It has been used by FC Infonet for the entire seasons 2013 and 2014 and will be partially used this season until the Lasnamäe Athletics complex pitch will be ready (the first game in Lasnamäe will be held on the 8th of May when Infonet will take on Pärnu).
In April 2013 it passed the FIFA quality test and received two stars meaning it can host international games for youth and women football (for U-21 games the capacity shall be expanded to 1,500).
In an interview to Estonian public TV, Estonian FA president Aivar Pohlak confirmed that they have a project to provide Sportland Arena with a roof to protect audience from the harsh weather conditions of the start of season, however works have not started yet. The plan is to expand capacity to 4,500 people.
The project (along with works to complete A.LeCoq Arena Northern Stand) will cost around 7million euros.
There was a small drop in temperatures since we're around 2-3'C on the termometer and could get colder by 19:00 EET. The artificial surface will be certainly wet might create difficulties when trying to play the ball on the floor. If goalkeepers have to be careful with slippery balls, the people who will turn out at the venue have to cover themselves properly. 'There not such thing as bad weather, but only bad clothing,' it's the Estonian motto to justify the weather at these latitudes.
I'd say an HT/FT odd would be a quite good punt with Levadia (1) winning both. Notwithstanding the gap, I am not confident Levadia might score more than 4 goal since it's the first official game of the season.
The game will be officiated by Mart Martin.
Entrance fee and streaming
2€ to attend the Estonian club football opening act.
If you fancy a cup of tea at home on your coach and free streaming instead, the game will be broadcast here (the link to the even will appear immediately before kick-off).