Short of attacking options in pre-season, HJK Helsinki are suddenly spoiled for choice when it comes to strikers with thoughts turning to Finnish title success.
Before the campaign began, HJK were regarded as one of the stronger teams in the Veikkausliiga, but many suspected that they would be found out by a lack of options in attack. The return of 2001 top scorer Paulus Roiha after a seven-year spell abroad augured well, but his pre-season injury seemed to have left Antti Muurinen's side with just one experienced forward – Jarno Parikka.
All of that changed in mid-April when HJK signed Polish striker Tomasz Sajdak and then struck a deal with Heart of Midlothian FC to bring 2005 top scorer Juho Mäkelä back on a three-month loan deal. With Roiha returning to full training sooner than expected, Muurinen suddenly had a wealth of striking talent, and with 14 goals in their first six league games, it seems to be paying off.
Muurinen has experimented with practically every possible attacking pairing so far, and every combination seems to have something to recommend. Mäkelä said: "We have all scored goals without Roiha, who is still coming beck to full fitness. It is hard to say which combination is best. We might have to try with three strikers – even four." Meanwhile, Sajdak is enjoying the battle for a first-team place, saying: "We have a lot of good players up front and there is healthy competition. The coach rotates the strikers a lot. I am doing my best every time we train to earn a starting spot."
Five in five
Sajdak is certainly making it hard for Muurinen not to pick him. He has scored five goals in as many games so far, including a hat-trick against reigning champions Tampere United on Monday. "I am happy with the way things have started here," he said. "It was easy to settle into the team and a few goals in the opening rounds have helped a lot."
HJK's three wins and three draws have left them third, while Tampere are still looking for their first win of the season. Mäkelä senses a title may be in the offing. "If I spend the whole season here, I would certainly aim to be the top scorer," he said. "That, however, is never the main target. I am here to help HJK win the title and I believe that I can do much more than score goals."
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