Following on from the horrific end to May, we got straight back on the horse after our 5-0 defeat at the hands of Kuopion as we defeated current title challengers Ilves in a 1-0 win. The month of July marked our first appearances in the UEFA Champions League as we played Armenian champions FC Alashkert in the 1st Qualifying Round and beat them 12-0 over two games before taking on the Kazakh champions FK Astana who we scraped past in the first leg before hammering them in the second leg.
Over the course of the past two months, we have suffered absolutely no losses as we won 11 of our 13 fixtures in the period, drawing twice in the league against Inter Turku and Kuopion. In June, the introduction of Hugo Keto in goal produced a month full of clean sheets before David Obi's return from injury against Helsinki. It was Yaya Sanogo who stole the show in this period, with five goals in one game against Alashkert and nine goals in total.
In the Veikkausliiga, we picked up 23 points with seven wins and two draws despite our involvement in European football during July. Our Champions League form has been exceptional so far, even if the quality of our opponent has been somewhat questionable. We defeated Alashkert 5-0 in Armenia and 7-0 at the Raatin before taking on FK Astana in the next qualifying round where we won 3-2 thanks to a last-gasp winner from Sanogo, which came before a 4-0 hammering at the Raatin Stadion in front of a capacity crowd.
Our current 14-game run at the top of the Veikkausliiga looks to have no end in sight this season as we run away with a whole nine-point lead on the 2nd placed Inter Turku - who finished last season as runners-up too. Despite boasting the best home record in the division - even with two games-in-hand and unbeaten - our away record is the fifth-best in the league this season with all three of our losses taking place on the road.
With us running way ahead at the top, the race for European qualification (2nd and 3rd) is running extremely tight. 7th placed Mariehamn are only four points away from second place currently. 8th placed Kuopion will certainly be looking to make some headway in the coming weeks with their games in hand as they once again are performing well below expectations under Jarmo Korhonen.
The relegation battle to stay up certainly seems to be over for the Veikkausliiga new-boys in Ekenas and Jyvaskyla. Ekenas sit in the relegation play-off spot but are gasping for air as they drift ten points away from safety, which Honka Espoo has in tenth place. It now seems to be a battle between the two clubs for who goes down automatically in 12th spot and who has a chance to stay up with the prospect of a relegation play-off at the end of the campaign.
Our Veikkausliiga campaign resumes at the beginning of August with a fixture against Gabri Garcia's 9th placed Seinajoen. In the perspective of present day, our biggest game in the domestic league will be against Inter Turku, who will be hopelessly chasing our tail and hoping to retain their position of last season of runners-up and Europa League qualification.
However, it is in the Champions League where we have been given an almost impossible challenge as we have been drawn against Swiss giants FC Basel in the third qualification round. The Super League holders have evidently got a much superior squad to our own, boasting the likes of Jetro Willems, Álvarez Balanta and Sam Gallagher and it could seem to be pushing the boundaries if we go into the game expecting a win. Even if we do lose - which is very likely - we will enter the UEFA Europa League fourth qualifying round automatically (Inter Turku come up against Sparta Prague in that competition).