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Veikkausliiga Overview

Finnish top-flight, known as the Veikkausliiga.

Format

Usually played from April until October, the Finnish top-flight, known as the Veikkausliiga sees 12 teams face each other home and away in the regular season before the league splits into two comprising of the top six sides (championship group) and the bottom six teams (challenge group).

For this play-off series, points from the regular season are carried over and each team in the group plays each other again. The winner of the championship group will claim the Veikkausliiga title while the lowest ranked team in the challenge group is relegated to the Ykkönen and the second-lowest side faces a two-legged play-off with the Ykkönen runners-up.

Champions

Only formed in 1990 as a professional league, the Veikkausliiga has been won by HJK 16 times including a run of six consecutive titles from 2009 and they have claimed the last two championships. They won the inaugural Veikkausliiga and have finished runners-up on three further occasions.

FC Haka are the second-most successful Finnish side having won nine titles but not since 2004 when they finished with the best attack and the best defence.

European qualification

The winners of the Veikkausliiga are awarded a place in the Champions League first qualifying round while the second, third and fourth-placed sides enter the Europa Conference League at the same stage.

Unsurprisingly, given the history and standing of HJK, they are also Finland’s most successful club in Europe, becoming the country’s first team to reach the Champions League group stage when they overcame Metz in the play-offs in 1998.

In a tough group with Dutch side PSV, Graeme Souness’ Benfica and then-reigning German champions Kaiserslautern. They put up a respectable showing with five points earned from a famous 2-0 win over Benfica at the Helsinki Olympic stadium and draws in Portugal and against Kaiserslautern.

They also competed in the Europa League group stage in 2014-15 where they famously beat Italian side Torino at their home ground – Bolt Arena, formerly Sonera Stadium – and saw off Danish side FC Copenhagen.

Player and manager records

Toni Huttunen has made the most appearances in Finnish top-flight history with 441 solely for MyPa, during which time he claimed one title, in 2005, but finished second on five occasions including four consecutively from 1993.

The all-time record scorer in Veikkausliiga history is actually the Russian Valeri Popovitch who netted 166 times between 1993 and 2009 for the likes of FC Haka and TPV.

Such was his standing at FC Haka, where he is their record goalscorer, they retired his number 14 shirt and he twice finished as the league’s top scorer while at the club, scoring 21 goals in 1995 and 23 four years later with Haka winning the championship on both occasions.

Notable players

Starting his career in his homeland with Reipas in 1987, Jari Litmanen also played for HJK and MyPa (before later spells at Lahti). His talent was noted by Dutch giants Ajax who signed the forward in 1992 and it was here that Litmanen played the best football of his career, finished as the Eredivisie top-scorer in 1993-94 as Louis Van Gaal’s side won the title and helped them to Champions League success two years later.

During the last few years of his Ajax career, he began to pick up injuries that would see him unable to reach the levels he was capable of in future moves to Barcelona and Liverpool.

Sami Hyypia spent the majority of his tenure in Finland with MyPa, winning two Finnish cups in his four years there but is most well-known for his time at Liverpool where he played over 300 games in a decade at the club.

Just a couple of years after his move from Willem II to Merseyside, the centre-back won a cup treble of the UEFA Cup, FA Cup and League Cup while often captaining the side. In 2005 he also won the Champions League as part of Liverpool’s famous comeback against AC Milan in Istanbul.

Jussi Jääskeläinen played in Finland from 1992 to 1997 for MP and VPS before a move to English First Division side Bolton Wanderers where, after establishing himself as the club’s first-choice goalkeeper, he helped them win promotion to the Premier League.

An impressive signing, having been bought for £500,000, he proved his worth and more to Bolton, making over 500 appearances for the club.

I am a freelance journalist for the International Blind Sports Association (IBSA), International Wheelchair and Amputee Federation (IWAS) and Why Can’t We specialising in para sport. Writing for It’s All Sport To Me, this will be my focus as I feel it is an area that deserves more coverage in the wider mainstream media. Since an early age I have been interested in para sport due to having cerebral Palsy but being at the London 2012 Games was when I knew I really wanted to work in the industry. Being a Watford supporter, mainstream sport is also a passion of mine and I will be writing weekly about La Liga and Ligue 1.

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