DAVID SMITH - Tuesday, May 8, 2012
Mason Trafford and Mariehamn will look to avenge last season's Finnish Cup semifinal loss to KuPS while Aaron Wheeler and FC KooTeePee will try to win their quarterfinal date with holders HJK.
HJK Helsinki - FC KooTeePee
Aaron Wheeler will look to play the hero again as FC KooTeePee try to pull off a second straight Finnish Cup upset when they face top-flight powerhouse HJK on Wednesday.
Wheelers two spot kicks in the previous round were the deciding point which pushed KooTeePee past current Veikkausliiga leaders Inter Turku, setting up yet another David vs. Goliath matchup.
HJK won their 11th Finnish Cup title last season, and have been the dominant force in Finnish soccer in recent years. They saw off Jaro with a 2-1 win in the last round, and are undoubtedly heavy favorites in Wednesday's game.
They have steadily climbed the standings to sit in a three-way tie on 12 points atop the league, and have momentum on their side with a pair of wins in their last two outings.
KooTeePee have tasted Cup success on four occasions in past years, although always under the guise of their former parent club KTP, with whom they split in 2000.
Two games into their Ykkönen season, they have managed a win and a draw, but will have a tough time to earn the distinction of being the only non-top-flight team in the semifinal round.
Neither team is reporting any absences.
KuPS - IFK Mariehamn
Mason Trafford and Mariehamn will try to book a third straight semifinal date on Wednesday, when they visit fellow Veikkausliiga team KuPS.
Etchu Tabe has been sparingly used for KuPS, and is not expected to take the field for the hosts.
The Islanders' run to the Cup semifinal last season was abruptly halted by KuPS, who repaid their hosts' hospitality by inflicting a 3-0 beating in Mariehamn that ended what had looked to be a relatively safe path to Europa League qualification.
In terms of current trends, Mariehamn do unquestionably hold the upper hand; they have not lost since the opening day of the season, while their hosts have yet to taste victory through their first six games, the last three being losses.
The teams met on the second gameday in Mariehamn, where a pair of early goals led to a 1-1 draw, in a game that saw the hosts unable to capitalize on the late sending off of KuPS striker Vjatšeslav Zahovaiko.
The Islanders will already be feeling the effects of their always travel-heavy schedule, having just returned from their weekend game up north at VPS, and now being forced to head to Kuopio, the geographically most-distant team they will have to face this season.
Mariehamn will be missing midfielder Mika Niskala, who is sidelined with a groin injury while KuPS will be without Estonian attacking midfielder Sander Purin due to suspension.