Guide to Rovers Europa League opponents RoPS

Tonight sees The Hoops back in European action when they take on Finnish side RoPS in their Europa League First Qualifying Rd 1st leg in Tallaght Stadium (8pm KO).

Their opponents hail from Rovaniemi the capital of Lapland, a town with a population of 61,000 located just 6 miles from the Arctic Circle and “officially” the home of Santa Claus.

The club, which was only formed in 1950, qualified for this years Europa League after finishing 2nd last year in the Veikkausliiga (Finnish Premier Division.)

That runners up spot was the highest the club have ever finished in the league in their history and they could count themselves unlucky not to finish top.

They missed out on being crowned champions by 1 point to SJK, a team they beat twice in the league.

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The Veikkausliiga is similar to the Airtricity Premier Division, a 12 team division where the team play each other three times.

This season isn’t going as well for RoPS, after 14 games they currently lie 5th and 11 points behind leaders HJK Helsinki.

Their recent league form is also very poor, in their last 6 games they’ve won one, drawn two and lost four.

Juha Malien checking out Tallaght Stadium yesterday
Juha Malien checking out Tallaght Stadium yesterday

Their manger is Juha Malinen, a 57 year old Finn who has been in charge since 2014. He has previously managed one of the bigger clubs in Finland MyPa and won the Finnish Cup in 1994 with his TPS in one of his earliest management jobs.

Aleksandr Kokko
Aleksandr Kokko

Aleksandr Kokko is their main striker. The 29 year old had an outstanding season last year and finished top scorer in the league with 17 goals.

Antti Okkonen
Antti Okkonen

Antii Okkenen is another one of their most important players. The 34 year old midfielder and ex Finland international was another who was instrumental in the club almost winning the league and he won player of the month in Finland in September.

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Janne Saksela is their right back and the 23 year old recently broke into the Finland national team.

This is the forth time RoPS have qualified for Europe. Ironically enough, the first game they ever played in Europe was against an Irish team when they took on Glentoran at home in the European Cup Winners Cup 1st Rd in September 1987. That game finished 0-0 and they eventually knocked the Belfast club out on away goals after a 1-1 draw in the 2nd leg. That season they would go on to reach the Quarter Finals of the ECWC before being knocked out by French giants Marseille, their greatest ever performance in European competition.

 

About Padraig Conlon

Padraig Conlon
More on Padraig coming soon.

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