Preview: HJK Helsinki vs. Qarabag FK

Preview: HJK Helsinki vs. Qarabag FK

HJK Helsinki welcomes Qarabag FK to the Bolt Arena on Thursday evening as the hosts aim to overturn a 2-1 deficit in the second leg of their Europa League qualifier.

The Azerbaijani outfit notched a crucial first-leg lead on home soil last week, leaving the Finnish side with plenty of work to do in order to advance.

Following a goalless first half in Baku, Leandro Andrade put Qarabag ahead 55 minutes before Anthony Olusanya equalized, but HJK failed to hold on as Juninho scored an 85th-minute winner.

It is fair to say that Qarabag dominated proceedings on home soil, racking up 62% possession and 16 shots, although HJK can count themselves unfortunate to have come away with nothing to show for their efforts after registering seven attempts on target.

The Finnish outfit has not played since last week’s loss, with their previous Veikkausliiga outing coming on August 5 against IFK Mariehamn, who they defeated 4-2 to secure a third successive league victory and keep the pressure on table-topping KuPS.

With three matches of the 2023 Veikkausliiga regular season remaining, Toni Korkeakunnas’s side find themselves one point shy of KuPS, having lost just two of their 19 encounters, and they also boast the best offensive record in the division.

As for Qarabag, they backed up their first-leg triumph with a 3-0 victory over Turan Tovuz on Sunday, courtesy of goals from Juninho, Abdellah Zoubir and former Nottingham Forest and Huddersfield Town forward Adama Diakhaby.

Having suffered a 1-0 defeat to Zira FK on the opening weekend of the 2023-24 Azerbaijan Premier League season, the Horsemen swiftly returned to winning ways as they go in search of a 10th top-flight title in 11 years, having dominated their domestic league in recent times.

Qarabag started the new campaign in the early Champions League qualification rounds but failed to make it past Polish club Rakow Czestochowa, despite kicking off their qualifying journey with a 6-1 aggregate victory over Lincoln Red Imps of Gibraltar.

Consequently, Gurban Gurbanov’s men have recorded four wins, one draw, and two losses across all competitions since the start of the 2023-24 season, scoring at least two goals on five occasions, although they have only managed to keep two clean sheets.

HJK Helsinki Europa League form:

HJK Helsinki form (all competitions):

Qarabag FK Europa League form:

Qarabag FK form (all competitions):

We say: HJK Helsinki 1-2 Qarabag FK (Qarabag FK to win 4-2 on aggregate)
HJK Helsinki has no choice but to throw everything at Qarabag as they attempt to turn the tie around, but the hosts’ attacking approach will likely leave them exposed at the back.

With that in mind, we expect Qarabag to absorb a fair amount of pressure early on before picking their moments to put the contest out of HJK’s reach.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *