FC Honka Espoo No1 Tuomas Peltonen hopes a good home performance against Viking FK tonight will help the Finnish side reach the UEFA Cup first round.
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In their second season in European competition, after playing in the 2007 UEFA Intertoto Cup, the up-and-coming club disposed of Iceland's ÍA Akranes in the first qualifying rounfd. This has set up a tie against Norwegian outfit Viking with the first leg being played at their Tapiola Stadium, rather than the Pohjola in Vantaa where they have played their previous European home ties.
Honka are coming into the match on the back of a run of five consecutive domestic victories, and are clearly showing no ill effects following the sale of goalkeeper Tomi Maanoja to Sweden's AIK Solna earlier this year. His replacement Peltonen is feeling confident, saying: "We have played well lately and I think we have a good chance to beat Viking."
The Tapiola-based club bowed out of the second round of the 2007 UEFA Intertoto Cup on away goals following two draws against Denmark's Aalborg BK, but the 30-year-old Peltonen feels those performances augur well for the upcoming match against the Stavanger side, who most would regard as favourites given the relative strengths of Finnish and Norwegian football.
"Last season in the Intertoto Cup we played two very tight matches against AaB and they went on to win the title in Denmark," Peltonen said. "Of course it is a little bit different now. AaB were still in pre-season and Viking are, like us, in the middle of their domestic campaign. This will no doubt be a tough task for us, but I think that our chances – especially at home – are good."
Kari Martonen, assistant to Honka coach Mika Lehkosuo, agreed. "Viking have good players and it will be a tough challenge, but we are certainly not without our chances," said the 45-year-old former HJK Helsinki man. "Viking play very tight in midfield, where they have their most important players. They have suffered a little with injuries, though, so we will see what their lineup will be."
Promoted to the Finnish top division for the first time in autumn 2005, Honka are only in their third season in the Veikkausliiga. Fourth in their first two campaigns, they are fourth again at the moment, but just four points adrift of league leaders FC International Turku. European kudos, however, remains as big an aim as Finnish status, and victory against Viking would provide plenty of that.