Nå nærmer det seg sesongstart i Eliteserien, og vi har fått Eliteserie-eksperten Ben Wells i Football Radar til å spå tabellen for 2020.
Predicting how the league will look come December is tough enough as it is, but the 2020 season is all the more harder to predict due to so many teams in ‘mid-table’ being of a very similar standard coming into the season.
It has made for some interesting reading so far, with so much variation between the published tabelltips on the internet already. Having watched all of the pre-season matches, I would like to think I am well placed to offer some more insight into how teams may perform this season though off the back of my ‘Glimt to be relegated’ prediction from 2019… Who knows.
16th – Sandefjord
You may not think it from my prediction of Sandefjord finishing bottom this season, but they are actually a side I enjoy watching quite a lot. Manager Marti Cifuentes is one of the brightest young coaches in Scandinavia at the moment & Sandefjord do have players in their squad able to excite, such as; Rufo, Wembamgomo, Valles & Normann Hansen.
However, with the season condensed this year due to the COVID-19 crisis, Sandefjord’s comparatively tiny squad may struggle with the intense schedule. They have some exciting youngsters in their squad ready to step in (Keep an eye out for Martin Andersen & George Gibson especially) but their lack of quality, experienced depth will likely cost them this season and see them relegated back to the OBOS Ligaen.
Key Player – Rufo
One to Watch – George Gibson
15th – Mjøndalen IF
The famously brown suited side did well to stay up last season, though may struggle once again this year with the league now comparatively stronger than the 2019 season due to the strength of the promoted clubs.
They still have a solid core comprised of the likes of the ever brilliant Christian Gauseth (who was excellent in 2019), Sondre Solholm Johansen & Tonny Brochmann. However, their lack of a proven goalscorer up front could cost them and due to various injury issues in their squad at present they may struggle to manage players’ game time at the beginning of the year.
It’s set to be another season of struggle for MIF but there is hope in the form of new signings Lars Olden Larsen & Markus Nakkim who both represent solid business from the club.
Key Player – Christian Gauseth
One to Watch – Magnus Bækken
14th – IK Start
Start achieved promotion back to the Eliteserien after a classic play-off game vs. Lillestrom, with much help from their almost talismanic forward Martin Ramsland.
It is this fight and the general improvement of the strength of their squad since last season that I believe will see them survive automatic relegation this year.
Manager Joey Hardarson did a good job last season in what was a tough time post-Rekdal, however his inexperience at this level may have an impact on the sides’ chances of survival. In Ramsland, Aremu & Deumeland the side have hope but they remain one of the weakest Eliteserien clubs on paper coming into this season.
It remains to be seen whether agent Stig Lillejord’s influence on the club will end up as a positive or negative and he has already had a hand in bringing in the likes of Vegard Bergan & Steffen Lie Skalevik ahead of the 2020 season. I remain dubious about this whole ‘deal’ but if it allows Start to continue bringing in players with the ability to keep them in the Eliteserien, then I will happily be proven wrong!
Key Player – Martin Ramsland
One to Watch – Eman Markovic
13th – Kristiansund BK
Always underrated, always underachieving. This will be the first season I am predicting Kristiansund to finish below 10th in the Eliteserien, whilst many have had them as relegation candidates for years now.
My prediction is a direct result of so many mid-table Eliteserien teams being similarly matched this year. With teams such as Odd & Brann for example not being as strong as in previous seasons, it means that clubs such as KBK could be pushed a little further down in the table.
Kristiansund do, however, have some very exciting players in their squad for the 2020 season. Goalkeeper Sean McDermott is the clear standout and in my opinion remains the best goalkeeper in the league. Alongside him, Flamur Kastrati & Amahl Pellegrino are sure to impress once more up front if they can keep fit.
I believe KBK will end up comfortably clear of relegation, but the season may be a struggle at times with other ‘big’ clubs likely falling down in the table this year.
Key Player – Sean McDermott
One to Watch – Faris Moumbagna
12th – Stromsgodset
Henrik Pedersen is one of the most exciting young managers in the Eliteserien this season. I thought it was a real coup that the club even got him on board last season & he showed in glimpses what he was capable of achieving with this squad.
It will be a tough transition for Stromsgodset to get back to the levels they were at under Ronny Deila in the past and the 2020 season is likely to be a struggle at times. Godset have an interesting and young squad to work with this year but the lack of quality backup in certain positions may hurt them at some stage this year.
A lot of the goalscoring burden will be placed on Lars-Jorgen Salvesen up front, a player easily capable of scoring 15+ goals in the Eliteserien every season if fit and confident. Players such as Maigaard & Stengel in midfield will also have a big part to play this season due to their seniority in such a young team.
Key Player – Lars-Jørgen Salvesen
One to Watch – Nico Mickelson
11th – Odd
Odd were a well oiled machine under Fagermo in previous seasons, though it was probably fair to say that come the end of the 2019 season a change was a little overdue, especially as the wheels came off during the clubs charge to finish in the top 3 last year.
New manager Jan Frode Nornes was Fagermo’s assistant manager in previous years, so I do not expect too much of a departure from the sides’ usual style of play and they have done well in the off-season to keep their solid back four of Risa, Hagen, Semb & Ruud all together.
A lot of Odd’s success this season will depend on whether they are able to keep last seasons’ top goalscorer Torgeir Borven in their squad. There has been significant interest around the player so it is yet to be seen whether he will stay for the entire season or not.
I’m predicting Odd to finish in a much lower league position this season, mostly due to the fact that it will likely take the club some time to react to losing Fagermo (who has joined Valerenga) and also that the clubs’ signings in the off-season have so far, been less than impressive.
I was hoping to see more ambition in the market from Odd, pre-COVID, but signings such as Kachi & Skogvoll have not inspired confidence in me.
Key Player – Torgeir Borven
One to Watch – Odin Bjortuft/Joshua Kitolano
10th – Haugesund
It’s fair to say that the 2019 season was a real mixed bag for Haugesund. Under popular new manager Jostein Grindhaug, the side stuttered in the league all season but took part in a brilliant cup run which saw them reach the final, before eventually losing to a strong Viking side.
Haugesund have a very interesting squad this season. Due to the COVID pause, star striker Ibrahima Wadji will return from his ban earlier in the season than expected and the club have done well to keep key players such as Mikkel Desler and Bruno Leite from last season (They did however lose star-man Sondre Tronstad to Vitesse).
Like many clubs, the transfer window has been a bit of a struggle for Haugesund as they have battled against financial issues for much of the off-season. However, they have managed to pull off a couple of impressive signings such as Benjamin Kallman (of Viking last season) and the promising Ulrik Fredrikson from Sogndal.
I suspect that 2020 will be another stuttering season from Haugesund, with the potential for them to finish a little higher than predicted if they find form.
Key Man – Bruno Leite
One to Watch – Kristoffer Velde
9th – Stabæk
One of the hardest teams to place this season and I have debated with myself for days now about where Stabaek may finish in the league this season.
The romantic in me thinks they could push for the top 6, with an exciting young squad available to Jan Jonsson, they have all the tools at their disposal to mount a charge for the top half of the table. A quick note on Jonsson, too, who seems to be one of the best pound-for-pound managers in the league right now and has already managed to stamp his authority on this Stabaek team following Henning Berg’s departure last season.
However, it isn’t all so promising in other departments. The loss of Franck Boli means that the majority of the goalscoring burden this season will fall on Kosuke Kinoshita who had a less than impressive start to his Stabaek career at the back end of last season.
I believe Stabaek will definitely build on their performances at the back end of last year under Jonsson and should be aiming now for a top half finish. 9th seems just about a fair enough, whilst conservative, prediction.
Key Player – Emil Bohinen
One to Watch – Oliver Edvardsen
8th – Aalesund FK
Every pre-season there is always a cliched ‘Dark Horse’ club, who everyone tips to finish much higher in the table than originally thought. This year, that title goes to AaFK who come into the 2020 season with an incredibly strong & deep squad having been promoted from the OBOS Ligaen last year.
Lars Bohinen’s side play an attractive brand of football in a 3-5-2 formation (usually) and have the ‘attractive’ players to match. In Niklas Castro, Daniel Gretarsson & Sigurd Haugen they have three of the more impressive players to be featuring in the Eliteserien this year.
The squad depth is the main reason I believe AaFK will finish so high. In every position, there is good backup. With games likely being played every 3 or 4 days on average this season, this squad depth will surely ease the burden of a tight schedule.
I expect AaFK to finish comfortably in the top half, though wouldn’t rule out an even higher finish come the end of the season.
Key Player – Niklas Castro
One to Watch – Simen Bolkan Nordli
7th – Sarpsborg
I tipped Sarpsborg to finish in the top 3 last season. That did not end well. 2019 was a torrid season for Sarpsborg who almost got themselves relegated despite having, on paper, one of the strongest teams in the league.
This year, it’s all change for the club. Long serving & well respected manager Geir Bakke has left to join Lillestrom in the OBOS Ligaen and in comes Mikael Stahre, a manager with a good record at his previous clubs which include AIK, IFK & Hacken in Sweden.
Stahre has not been afraid to immediately introduce his own brand of football with a 3-4-3 formation now deployed. It looks as though Jorgen Strand Larsen is set to be the main man leading the line for the club this season, so it will be interesting to see whether he is able to have the brilliant goalscoring season many have been predicting him to have the last 2 years.
It’s tough to see where Sarpsborg could end up in the table this year, I personally do not think they will struggle anywhere near as much in 2019, but a medal position may be just outside of their reach for the moment.
Key Player – Jorgen Strand Larsen
One to Watch – Ismaila Coulibaly
6th – Brann
Every year, Brann have had the potential to be a very strong Eliteserien team but as each season wears on the playing squad seems to stagnate a little more each time. As big a fan of Lars Arne Nilsen as I am, I was fully on board with many Brann fans wanting a change of manager ahead of this 2020 season.
Despite this, Brann come into the season with one of the stronger squads in what is looking likely to be a very condensed mid-table this year. Their midfield depth is fantastic with Daniel Pedersen, Fredrik Haugen, Kristoffer Barmen, Amer Ordagic & Petter Strand all vying for a starting spot.
As well as this, the addition of the maligned Vegard Forren to replace Vito Wormgoor could prove to be a very astute piece of business from the club who now look just as strong in defence as they did last year, if not stronger with the additions of Jon Helge Tveita & Ole Martin Kolskogen.
I still believe that Brann’s style of play is not getting the best out of many of their players, but if Dao Bamba can score the goals he is capable of scoring this year then there’s no reason why they can’t finish even higher than my prediction of 6th.
Key Player – Daouda Bamba
One to Watch – Ole Martin Kolskogen/Mikal Berg Kvinge
5th – Bodø/Glimt
Frankly, I would like to predict Glimt to finish a little lower than 5th but I know full well I will just get bullied by their fans again… However, after last seasons’ debacle (I predicted them to be relegated, if you weren’t aware) I reckon Glimt should just about finish in the top 5.
There’s no doubt that the squad is severely depleted compared to last season. No Amor Layouni, no Hakon Evjen & no high profile replacements to speak of. It also looks increasingly likely that Jens Petter Hauge, tipped by many to take over the reigns as Glimt’s star forward, is set to leave for pastures new.
Sammy Skytte & Kasper Junker were both a part of the great Stabaek revival of 2019 so look to be solid additions to this Glimt squad. Sondre Fet could be this years’ dark horse player also, with a skillset unmatched by many footballers in world football let alone the Eliteserien.
There is much to be negative about and much to be positive about with regards to Glimt ahead of the 2020 season, though their style of play under Kjetil Knutsen undoubtedly gets results. 5th is about as high as I can justify them finishing this year, though there remains a big chance that their lack of action in the transfer market this Winter could see them end up a lot lower.
Key Player – Patrick Berg
One to Watch – Viktor Boniface
4th – Vålerenga
No, that isn’t a typo. I genuinely do think Valerenga will finish 4th this season.
I realise that it is more than likely this will end up being so very wrong, but I’ve watched a lot of them in pre-season and they genuinely look *very good* under Dag Eliev Fagermo.
First of all, the depth in this Valerenga squad is very impressive considering recent financial issues. The starting XI almost picks itself at this point and there is likely to be a lot of continuation from the best XI of last season, with only Kristoffer Klaesson, Fredrik Oldrup Jensen and Christian Borchgrevink likely to newly enter the team.
If Herolind Shala stays fit, then Valerenga have one of the most exciting playmakers in the league. A midfield of Shala, Oldrup & Lekven is incredibly well balanced and given that they are likely to be feeding Donnum, Finne & Vilhjalmsson up front, there is lots to get excited about as a Valerenga fan.
I personally think Fagermo is the perfect man for the current job at Valerenga and he has a lot of young talent to work with here. The likes of Osame Sahraoui, Odin Thiago Holm and Kristoffer Klaesson are all extremely talented and likely to see good amounts of action this year. If Fagermo can get his side to click early, there’s no reason why they couldn’t challenge for a medal in 2020.
Key Player – Herolind Shala
One to Watch – Odin Thiago Holm
3rd – Viking
Are Viking back? I think they might be. After an extraordinary 2019 season which admittedly saw their league campaign fall flat towards the end of the year in a direct trade off for a cup final place, Viking come into the 2020 season looking just as strong if not stronger.
I was once a doubter of Bjarne Berntsen and bought into the ‘dinosaur’ criticism that was being levelled at him in the early stages. But, having watched that cup run and *that* cup final (Viking won, of course) I am now a Berntsen believer.
Berntsen is a manager who players want to give their all for. Kristoffer Lokberg and Kristian Thorstvedt have both spoken to me in the past about how much more Berntsen can get out of his players than other managers.
Looking ahead to the 2020 season, I believe a medal place is definitely on the cards for this Viking team if they live up to expectations. Aside from Kristian Thorstvedt, much of the 2019 squad remains in place with the huge additions of players such as Veton Berisha and Yan-Erik de Lanlay. Many players who impressed in 2019, such as Adrian Nilsen Pereira and Ylldren Ibrahimaj, are expected to have big seasons for the club in 2020 also. There will also be a battle in goal, not just in terms of pronunciation, but also ability as Arild Ostbo & Iven Austbo go head to head for the number 1 jersey.
I’d be very surprised if Viking finished outside of the top 3, frankly. They are more than good enough now to challenge for a medal place.
Key Player – Veton Berisha
One to Watch – Sebastian Sebulonsen/Harald Nilsen Tangen
2nd – Rosenborg
There’s still something missing from Rosenborg in the post-Ingebrigtsen era. I was personally very excited when Eirik Horneland was first introduced as the new RBK manager last season, however, things quickly turned sour and a medal position finish last season did little to sweeten the mood ahead of the 2020 season.
Rosenborg still have the second best squad in the league coming into this season, that there is no doubt. However, their lack of activity in the transfer market could cost them dearly.
With Birger Meling set to leave the club shortly, Horneland’s plan is to re-train Anders Trondsen as a left back which just doesn’t seem to me to be a viable option for the season ahead. Trondsen, when fit, is such an impressive player in midfield that placing him at full back would really limit his impact.
Up front, though Alexander Soderlund struggled last season, Dino Islamovic does not look to be an upgrade in that department. There is no doubt that Islamovic’s ceiling is higher in terms of potential but whether or not he can immediately score the 15-20 goals RBK were lacking last season is another matter entirely.
On the positive side of things, there are more promising youngsters than ever coming through at Rosenborg. Julian Faye Lund will be the sides’ number 2 this season whilst Edvard Tagseth, Emil Konradsen Ceide and Carlo Holse all look set to get good game time in 2020. I am also still hoping to see Franklin Daddys Boy Nyenetue at some stage this season, after he consistently impressed for the 2nd team in 2019.
If Pal Andre Helland can keep himself fit & firing this season as he has done in pre-season so far, then it is more than likely he can help carry the side to a title challenge of some proportion.
Key Player – Pal Andre Helland
One to Watch – Emil Konradsen Ceide/Edvard Tagseth
1st – Molde
The easiest prediction on this list. Molde have clearly the strongest squad in the league and have looked in imperious form at times during pre-season. If they do not finish 1st, something must have seriously gone wrong along the way this year.
Firstly it’s worth noting that the majority of Molde’s best XI are at or approaching their peak years. Players such as Haugen (26), Haraldseid (26), Bjornbak (28), James (27) and Ulland Andersen (27) are already incredibly important to this team and have been improving year on year in the Eliteserien of late.
Molde may have lost Vegard Forren and Ruben Gabrielsen in between seasons but Martin Bjornbak & Stian Gregersen remain a solid CB pairing. In midfield, Wolff Eikrem and Hestad are likely to be the main men in 2020 once more and up front I fully expect Leke James to score 20 odd goals once again this season. The spine of this team is so strong.
The supporting cast is also very impressive, especially when you consider that players such as Martin Ellingsen, Etzaz Hussain, Tobias Christensen, John Kitolano and Ola Brynhildsen are unlikely to make the XI too often this season but would walk into the best XI of most other Eliteserien clubs.
Molde will win the league in 2020, that I have no doubt. They are currently the benchmark for all Norwegian clubs and there could be an argument that they are currently the 2nd best team in Scandinavia, too.
Key Player – Magnus Wolff Eikrem
One to Watch – Tobias Christensen