Immediately after the victory against Sundsvall, Malmo flew home quickly in order to prepare for their own home premiere which is already sold out. After last seasons success domestically and in Europe, the interest for Malmo is huge and after their first trashing performance of Sundsvall (4-1) the expectations are above the clouds ahead of this match by both supporters and media. Malmo actually secured the title on AIK’s home field last season, which is still imprinted on the eyes on the organization and therefore it is also an extra spice to this matchup.
AIK will be on the opposing side, in an atmosphere which will be electrical in many ways. Firstly, these teams are more or less rivals for the title since many seasons, and AIK are being mentioned as one of three teams that can knock Malmo off their seat. AIK began their opener at home in Solna versus bottom feeders Halmstad, where the visitors gave AIK a handful (surprisingly). Despite 70% possession for AIK in the first half, they went to half time with 0-0 and a certain frustration was created. Second half was not great but just enough for AIK to capture a victory with 2-1 but it came to an expensive price, as their best player and Sweden international Nabil Bahoui got a hit to the head and will miss this important clash with Malmo. For being considered top candidates, the Solna side did not show a lot of promise though, barely being able to create scoring chances in an overall disappointing performance despite the support from the home crowd. The distance between their midfield to the strikers was huge and therefore their passing game appeared slow, and both opposing fans and media were quick to give AIK the ‘not impressive’ stamp. In a top meeting, this might change though. Coach Andreas Alm is constantly questioned even by own supporters whenever the team does not perform well, so this potential title fight is huge for both teams.
For the visitors, offensive midfielder Nabil Bahoui (26/14 last year) will miss the game along with newly signed prolific midfielder Dickson Etuhu, who are two expected key pieces.
Malmo possess the best team on paper Sweden has seen in perhaps twenty years, which is largely due to the finances received from the Champions League participation last season. They began brutal and led 3-0 after 20 minutes against the newcomers Sundsvall, until defensive midfielder Enock Kofi Adu received a questionable red card, but will miss this home clash. Overall it was a brilliant performance and surely put scare in many teams who intend to challenge for the title.
New midfielder Wolff Eikrem had three assists, while his striker companion Jo Inge Berget scored two goals and Markus Rosenberg had a goal himself – all key pieces are off to flying starts and a high confidence when returning home to Swedbank Stadium where 20 000 supporters will await the home opener in a rather compact stadium which makes the atmosphere a fierece experience for many teams. Playing at home has always been a strong trademark for Malmo, particularly in Europe where they beat big teams with an equal/or weaker squad than they have right now. There is no real weakness in this team that they have shown yet, except for perhaps being too relaxed when playing with the lead as we saw in Sundsvall after 3-0. Possession wise it is a no brainer, as Malmo likes to keep the ball and let the opponent chase, and play with a few touches only.
Coach Age Hareide have a pleasant situation injury wise, with Guillermo Molins nearing a comeback, but not ready yet. Midfielder Kofi Adu is suspended, while reserve winger Simon Kroon is injured and confirmed out.
AIK did not look solid offensively at home versus a weak Halmstad and defensively still suffered a goal, which implied they have more to give on both ends and perhaps not a finished contender yet. The match will be dominated by Malmo in terms of possession and chances, and AIK must be effective as soon as they have the ball or else this will be lost quickly. Personally I can not overlook the strong home factor either, even if Malmo have shown a certain respect when playing AIK before, they sort of feel ‘too good’ for this league this season after the Champions League adventure. It is a cocky spirit, but also a strong self belief which is what makes them strong. Due to Malmo’s strong offense, I rely on at least two goals being scored at home versus AIK who looks shaky at the start of the season. The -1 AH is a good enough coverage to get the stake back if the victory should come harder than predicted with a goal difference. The city is excited to see their Champions on home soil, perhaps an overhyped tension but the hosts have shown to tendencies to doubt them yet and therefor still get my vote for the time being.