The official website for European football

HJK flying high ahead of European duty

Published: Monday 11 July 2011, 9.45CET
Top of the Veikkausliiga by a distance and through to the Finnish Cup final, HJK Helsinki are in scintillating form ahead of their opening UEFA Champions League assignment.
by Mikael Erävuori
from Helsinki
HJK flying high ahead of European duty
HJK have ambitions beyond the domestic scene this season ©Jussi Eskola
Published: Monday 11 July 2011, 9.45CET

HJK flying high ahead of European duty

Top of the Veikkausliiga by a distance and through to the Finnish Cup final, HJK Helsinki are in scintillating form ahead of their opening UEFA Champions League assignment.

It is little surprise to see HJK Helsinki – winners of the last two Finnish First Division championships – leading the way 15 games into the 2011 campaign. The manner of their assault on the summit, though, has been simply stunning.

Defeated 2-0 by TPS Turku on the season's opening day in early May, the titleholders bounced back with four straight victories before suffering another setback, a 2-0 loss at IFK Mariehamn. Since then, however, they have been flawless, racking up nine consecutive wins to establish a ten-point gap at the top.

The recipe for success is one concocted by coach Antti Muurinen, who stated before the campaign began that he intended the capital outfit to challenge on three fronts. "The championship, of course, and the cup, but also we really want to go as far as we can on the continent," he said. Evidently riding high in the Veikkausliiga and already through to September's Suomen Cup final, HJK have just one more aim to cross off the list.

Having safely negotiated Friday's game against second-placed FC Inter Turku, HJK can now turn their attentions to the first leg of their UEFA Champions League second qualifying round tie against Bangor City FC. They travel to Rhyl, in Wales, for Wednesday's fixture with every reason to be confident.

Muurinen's charges have scored 35 goals and conceded only seven during their nine-match winning streak, including a 6-0 revenge triumph over first-day conquerors TPS. With the luxury of relative strength in depth, Muurinen has shuffled his pack accordingly, particularly rotating strikers Berat Sadik, Teemu Pukki and Akseli Pelvas when required.

The involvement of venerable forward Jari Litmanen and experienced midfielder Aki Riihilahti has so far been curtailed by injury, yet both are expected to provide options as the season progresses.

At the other end of his career is 22-year-old centre-back Juhani Ojala, who made his breakthrough last term and is now a key part of HJK's back four. "We are able to play with a high tempo for 90 minutes and that means we are a strong team," he said. "We can maintain our level on the pitch and the bench always provides extra power. A good team does not lose concentration, it stays focused until the end."

Last updated: 15/07/11 13.29CET

Related information

Player profiles
Coach profiles
Member associations
Team profiles

http://www.uefa.com/news/newsid=1649020.html#hjk+flying+high+ahead+european+duty

UEFA.com features

Penalty shoot-outs: the long and the short of it
  • Penalty shoot-outs: the long and the short of it
  • Story so far: Real Madrid CF
  • Guingamp magic floors Paris
  • Fenerbahçe great Alex calls time on career
  • Gabbiadini inspires high-flying Sampdoria
  • UEFA Champions League round of 16 classics
  • UEFA Europa League stars and strikes
  • Deciding drama: The best of matchday six
  • UEFA Youth League group stage by numbers
  • Masterclass: Ivan Rakitić free-kick guide
1 of 10
 
  • © 1998-2014 UEFA. All rights reserved.
  • The UEFA word, the UEFA logo and all marks related to UEFA competitions, are protected by trade marks and/or copyright of UEFA. No use for commercial purposes may be made of such trade marks. Use of UEFA.com signifies your agreement to the Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy.