Finland play host to Ukraine on Saturday evening knowing that victory will see them take a significant step towards claiming second position in Group B.
However, Ukraine find themselves in a similar spot, the visitors also being able to move clear of their World Cup qualification rivals with a win in Helsinki.
Having defeated Kazakhstan and fallen to a one-sided defeat in France, Finland’s World Cup qualification results in September went as most people would have expected.
Even in losing 2-0 to the world champions, Markku Kanerva would have taken the positives from restricting their hosts to just two strikes given that goal difference could play its part in a close group.
Nevertheless, the pressure is on Finland to find something extra during the second half of their schedule, particularly in their penultimate home game against their main group rivals.
Holding a match in hand, Finland’s last-gasp equaliser in Ukraine back in March could eventually prove decisive, but the Eagle-owls must first find a way to win this contest.
Finland have scored just two goals in their last outings in all competitions, both efforts coincidentally coming from Joel Pohjanpalo in the 60th minute.
Remaining on the subject of extraordinary trends, Ukraine have recorded five scoring draws in succession during their qualifying campaign, four of which have ended 1-1.
Interim head coach Oleksandr Petrakov started his tenure with a dramatic four-goal thriller in Kazakhstan before witnessing his team hold France.
The latter of those results proved enough to keep the Euro 2020 quarter-finalists in second spot, but they can ill-afford a first defeat of their schedule ahead of welcoming Bosnia-Herzegovina to Lviv next week.
While Petrakov would have been delighted to see Mykola Shaparenko finally end his 20-game wait for his first Ukraine goal in the last match, he will be more satisfied if his team can end a run of eight matches without a clean sheet.
Finland World Cup Qualifying – Europe form:
Finland form (all competitions):
Ukraine World Cup Qualifying – Europe form:
Ukraine form (all competitions):
We say: Finland 1-1 Ukraine
Having avoided defeat in their opening five games, Ukraine will expect to prolong that record in Helsinki. Nevertheless, we are backing the home side to at least earn a share of the spoils, a result which will not necessarily be deemed as a positive ahead of their remaining fixtures.