'I want to score past him' - Finland team-mate is next focus for City's top scorer
PUBLISHED: 06:30 13 December 2018 | UPDATED: 14:21 13 December 2018
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The sight of Teemu Pukki bearing down on goal is one few Championship goalkeepers will relish at the moment and Norwich City's striker is looking forward to pitting his wits against Bristol City's number one this weekend.
Niki Mäenpää is a long time Finland team-mate of the Canaries’ top scorer and has established himself as Bristol’s number one since a summer switch from Brighton.
“He’s actually a really good friend of mine, so I’m really looking forward to the game,” Pukki said.
“I’ve already spoken with Miki, he’s hoping that I don’t score and of course I want to score past him. So it’s probably one of the games I’m looking forward to most this season.”
While that personal duel will provide added motivation for both players, they have plenty to look forward to with Finland.
Pukki scored three winners as the Finns surprisingly topped their Uefa Nations League group to seal promotion and a European Championship play-off slot ahead of qualifying, while Mäenpää provided cover for number one Lukas Hrdackey, of German side Bayer Leverkusen.
“Finland have never been in a big tournament before but now the other qualification is before the play-offs, so there is still one-and-a-half years until the play-off would be,” City star striker explained.
“So it feels really nice but there was a lot of talk when we won it, now it’s eased down and we start qualification in March.
“So hopefully we can be in the Euros, that would be the dream for Finland.”
The Finns will face Italy, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Armenia, Liechtenstein and Greece, with Pukki – who has scored 15 goals in 69 games for his country – adding: “There’s no easy group but of course Italy is the biggest team so that’s one game which obviously I’ll look forward to.
“But I will for all the games, whenever you play for the national team it’s an honour, so those are nice games.”
The 28-year-old has previously played for Sevilla in Spain, Celtic in Scotland, Schalke in Germany and Brondby in Denmark but is preparing for his first Christmas in England.
Asked how Christmas is enjoyed back home in Finland, he continued: “I don’t know so well how you guys celebrate it yet but obviously it is a big thing as well. The big thing for sure is that our main day is the 24th (of December).
“But yeah I just spend time with the family, eat well, open some presents and it’s different things for different people, but if I was home I would probably go to the sauna with my dad – which this year I can’t do!
“So we’ve got my girlfriend’s family coming over, so she will be doing our Christmas stuff.”