Finally the waiting time is over. After weeks of a long preseason, Premium Liiga clubs are ready to battle.
The appetizer of the calendar that will bring us until November is, as usual, the ‘Eesti Superkarikas’, the Estonian Supercup.
Levadia is back on the pitch to defend the title won last year against Kalju. This time, the ‘Greens’ are the Premium Liiga Champions. As Estonian Cup holders, Flora will try to win their 8th Supercup. With the help of the info graphic, we can check what the comparison is between the two heavy weights of Estonian football in a competition played for 18 times.
Solid pre-season for Marko Kristal side. In the indoor tournament, opposed to Kalju, Sillamäe, Flora, Paide and Infonet, they never lost a game as they collected 4 wins and one draw (0-0 with Sillamäe). They had a glorious comeback with Paide. The 2-0 in first half was turned into a 2-3 at final time.
Away from Estonia, they played 4 friendly games collecting 3 wins and one loss only (against Finnish side SJK).
Notwithstanding Rimo Hunt left for Kazakhstan, they signed Vladislav Ivanov, topscorer with Levadia in 2009. Another great addition seems to be the Egyptian (first ever in Estonian top-flight football) Omar El-Husseiny. Heiko Tamm (Tammeka Tartu) is the third prominent addition to the squad as Levadia operated very little on the transfer market suggesting they will keep the same bulk squad of last season.
They might lose Dmitrijev and Kruglov, eager to go abroad.
In that case, Raudsepp would replace Dmitrijev in the middle and Pikk shall take the left full-back role. Teever might have some chances over Ivanov considering the good pre-season.
The indoor tournament brought only one win out of five games (against Paide). Hurt has tested his squad a lot switching line-ups and formations. After trying a 4-2-4, he seems keen in using the 4-1-4-1 formation with Luigend in front of the defence and a line of quick four behind Prosa.
Flora did not leave Tallinn for preseason friendlies, but received foreign visitors: HJK Helsinki (1-0), Brondby IF (0-3) FC Lahti (1-3). Except against HJK, the other games showed some flaws in the young XI (average age of a starting XI 21,5) compensated by appreciable ball possession. The offensive phase needs to gain sharpness as Prosa did not finish the few good chances collected.
The transfer window brought back Georgian Zaxara Beglarashvili and Russian Irakli Logua.
The first returned to Estonia already at the end of summer however could not be registered before the start of the new season. He was an absolute protagonist of the Aastalõputurniir won by Flora. In the 4-1-4-1 he is a bit far from the penalty box, however he is helping a lot to create supremacy in the midfield line. Logua has just played the final pre-season game (against Lahti) and will probably not be fielded for the Supercup final.
Hurt will probably field Taavi Rähn since immediately as he can add experience to a young side. This would make slide Baranov to his natural role of right full-back. However, if injured, his place would be taken by Jürgenson, able to play on both side. In that case Aloe would get a start on the left. Gussev is ahead of Alliku. Prosa is ahead of Post however the latter could be fielded in second half to exploit aerial. German Ślein suffered an ankle twist and will not be available as substitute.
Who can be a protagonist?
The official poster of the final suggest two names: Artur Rättel for Levadia and Zaxara Beglarashvili for Flora.
In our opinion on Levadia’s side we would keep an eye also on Omar El-Husseiny.
Rauno ‘Sappi’ Sappinen can also bring troubles on that side engaging Kruglov.
The keys of the game
Speculative football (Levadia) against ball possession (Flora).
The new philosophy embraced by Flora will clash with Marko Kristal patient tactics: you want the ball? You can keep it as we will go on counterattacks.
The most important thing for Flora will be to correctly perform the transitions.
As seen in some of the latest friendly games, the midfield of the white-green striped is not quick in recovering, leaving the defence in rather embarrassing situations. Kristal will try to exploit those spaces left to send in people with the likes of Antonov, Subbotin, Rättel and El-Husseiny. Ivanov will keep busy the defence in the box and Luigend coverage will be crucial.
Prosa will try to get in from Jahhimovitś side as the nr.21 suffers quick men. In that case Podholjuzin might be compelled to keep position to help marking without forgetting about Gussev, another quick one. Subbotin support might be necessary in the defensive phase.
The ball possession and circulation of Flora will be put under the stress test of Levadia tough pressing.
Kick-off on the 25th of February at 19:00h in Sportland Arena
Referee: Jaan Roos
Assistants: Marek Lillmaa, Raul Kaivoja
Fourth official: Gunnar Nuuma
Live streaming from ERR Sport here.
Levadia preseason focus: game vs. Kalju, game vs. Flora by Deni Delev
Flora preseason focus: game vs. HJK, game vs. Brondby by Angelo Palmeri game vs. Kalju by Chris Johns