Understanding the wider context of Norwegian’s top division is crucial to playing Eliteserien Fantasy this season, especially for those trying it for the first time in 2019.
There are 16 teams in the country’s top flight and, as we have already mentioned in earlier preview articles, it is a very hard one to predict.
In this article, we’ve got everything you need to know about all of the Eliteserien clubs and what we can expect from them.
After clinching the 2018 title, Rosenborg have now won the league four years in a row, and have generally been the dominant force in Norwegian football over the last three decades. The defending champions have won the league 19 times in the last 27 years, including 13 years in a row from 1992 to 2004.
Rosenborg have the biggest budget by far and are expected to win the league again in 2019.
They had a pretty bad season by their standards last year, but they still won the league mainly because none of the other teams managed to do particularly well over the full season.
Since last year, Rosenborg have appointed a new manager in Erik Horneland, who was in charge of Haugesund for the last two years.
At Haugesund, his team has been fairly compact at the back, but they were still one of the more exciting attack teams with a lot of passes in the final third. This is a big contrast to Rosenborg from last season, who pressed a lot, conceded a lot of shots and were fairly direct in their style.
Hornelands demands a lot from his player. He has already ruled out Nicklas Bendtner (11,5) playing as a winger, like we saw a lot last season, because of his low work rate.
In fact, Bendtner might face serious competition from Alexander Søderlund (10,5) this season, as he is close to the definition of a striker Horneland likes. Bendtner is a player that’s more technically gifted than Søderlund, so it will be interesting to see how that one turns out.
Samuel Adegbenro (10,0) is also working hard to adapt to the new style. He was recently talking to the media about how he’s used to having a free role and he won’t get that now due to Horneland’s rigid style.
Another potential effect of Horneland as a manager is goalkeeper André Hansen (7,0m) losing his appeal. Only one team conceded more shots than Rosenborg last season, and Hansen was a big part of the reason why they still kept so many clean sheets. It wouldn’t be surprising if Rosenborg conceded fewer shots this seasons, which could lead to Hansen enjoying fewer save points and potential for bonus.
In 2018, Molde had a terrible start to the season, but for the second half of the campaign they played the best football and were arguably the best team in the league.
We all know Ole Gunnar Solskjær is gone until at least the summer, and to be honest, it doesn’t look like he’s coming back.
Erling Moe, who was Solskjær’s assistant, has taken charge at the Aker Stadion since the former Manchester United striker’s departure.
However, I don’t think that will make much of a difference to their chances, and I expect to see more of the same this season from MFK.
In fact, Molde should be able to challenge Rosenborg for the title this season. They have managed to keep most of their key players, and have used the funds they got for Solskjær and Red Ball Salzburg signing striker Erling Braut Håland to strengthen their squad even more. The squad has been trimmed ahead of this season, but Molde have still improved the overall quality in the squad.
I am expecting them to keep playing attractive attacking football with plenty of points potential for their midfielders and main striker Leke James (10,5).
Arguably the best signing of any Eliteserien club so far is defender Martin Bjørnbak (6,0). He is widely expected to greatly improve Molde’s defence ahead of the new campaign.
Brann challenged Rosenborg for the title for most of last season, but faded in the end and finished third. However, I still expect to see Brann play a big part in Eliteserien Fantasy in 2019.
The defenders are still the most attractive options in Bergen, even with Gilli Rolantsson (6,5) being a midfielder.
Lars Arne Nilsen plays a defensive, pressing style for the most part, although Brann will probably be in a position where they are expected to dominate possession more often than before.
The big question mark at Brann is the goalkeeper. They weren’t able to sign Hannover’s Samuel Sahin-Radlinger permanently and have signed two new shot-stoppers during the winter.
Eirik Holmen Johansen (6,0) has arrived from Sandefjord, but he’s been far from impressive during the pre-season and might face more competition than expected from veteran goalkeeper Håkon Opdal (5,5).
Brann have made a few quality additions to their central midfield this winter, in Petter Strand (6,5) joining from Molde and Kristoffer Løkberg (6,5) trading Ranheim in for a move down south.
This gives Nilsen lots of options, and more of a headache for us Fantasy managers.
I personally don’t think any of the midfielders produce enough to justify their price tags, although there might be some budget options available if they can nail down a place in the starting XI.
Daouda Bamba (9,5m) is probably the go-to option outside the defence, with close to no competition after Steffen Lie Skålevik (8,0) was sold to Sarpsborg.
Oslo-based Vålerenga are traditionally one of the biggest teams in the league, and as the capital team, are widely supported. In the last few years, they have been disappointing, and haven’t finished higher than sixth in the last seven seasons.
There are reasons for optimism ahead of the new season though, after some potentially good signings during the winter.
In defence, Vålerenga have signed former Rosenborg centre back Johan Lædre Bjørdal (5,0) and versatile right-back Efrain Juarez (5,0), who has 39 caps for Mexico.
In midfield, they have signed Herolind Shala (8,5), who was a great Fantasy option for relegated side Start last season, and Deyver Vega (6,5) from Brann.
Up front, they have replaced Sam Johnson, who joined Real Salt Lake, with Rosenborg striker Matthis Vilhjalmson (9,5). If he can stay injury free, Vålerenga might have a top striker there.
Sarpsborg had a strange season in 2018. They went all the way to the Europa League group stages after an impressive run of results in the qualifiers and followed up with a few impressive games and results in the group stages.
However, their Eliteserien form was less impressive, with just 41 points from 30 games.
I’m expecting them to have a better domestic campaign this year, especially as they will have no European fixtures to focus on.
Although Sarpsborg didn’t have the best season defensively last year, there is hope they could get back to the form of previous years and give us some decent Fantasy options at the back.
There might be some alternatives both in midfield and up front, but like the 2018 campaign, they have a big squad with multiple options for quite a few positions.
They have lost a few key men like Joonas Tamm, Joachim Jørgensen, Patrick Mortensen, Tobias Heintz, Rashad Muhammed and a few fringe players, but have also added a few interesting players.
Nicolai Næss (5,0) has joined in defence, Ismael Coulibaly (6,0) looks like he can offer good value up front and could even be the new Krepin Diatta for them. The aforementioned Skålevik and Pablo Arboine (5,0) are also now on the books up front and in defence respectively.
The rest of the bunch
A few of the other teams probably deserve more than a single paragraph, but the five mentioned above are probably the teams expected to finish at the top end of the Eliteserien in 2019.
Outside of that, Haugesund have done well in recent seasons and still have a few quality players, but there are major worries about their defence as they have sold their main goalkeeper Per-Kristian Bråtveit to Swedish club Djurgårdens and right-back Kristoffer Haraldseid (5,5) to Molde without replacing them, while centre back Vegard Skjerve has retired.
A big question mark hangs over Strømsgodset, with all three heavy hitters in midfield from 2017 and 2018 gone. Bassel Jradi and Tokmac Nguen have gone abroad, while Eirik Ulland Andersen (10,0) has moved to Molde.
After a disappointing 2018 campaign, Odd could bounce back after signing back Fredrik Oldrup Jensen (5,0). He should be a big boost for their midfield, and I still expect them to be one of the better defensive sides. There are still concerns over their attack though.
Kristiansund recently made a massive signing in bringing Irish goalkeeper Sean McDermott (5,0) back to Norway. They sold him to Dinamo Bucuresti after last season, but he was released by the club after just two months and it didn’t take long for Kristiansund to re-sign him. I also expect KBK to be one of the better defensive teams, as they play a fairly conservative style of football.
Stabæk and Tromsø might be the teams to look at for budget picks in midfield. They both play fairly attacking football, and it can be quite effective at times. Meanwhile, they are two clubs with questionable defences, Stabæk in particular.
Lillestrøm are something of a dark horse. Arnor Smarason (9,0) was one of the main reasons they managed to keep their place in Eliteserien last season and he has signed a new contract with the club for the new campaign. Striker Thomas Lehne Olsen (9,0) is also still around which should give them something to aim at up front.
Ranheim were a bright spark last season, arguably the smallest team ever (at least in recent times) to make it into the top level. Predicted to finish bottom by most pundits, they clinched a place in the top half of the table. However, after losing key players Løkberg and Christian Eggen Rismark (5,5) to Brann and Aslak Witry to Djurgården, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them in a relegation fight in 2019. Ranheim have found an interesting replacement for Løkberg in Adria Mateo Lopez (5,5), who is the first foreign player in six years to sign for the club although he has played for neighbour club Levanger the last five seasons though.
Bodø/Glimt also had a decent 2018 campaign as a newly promoted side, despite finishing just three points above the relegation zone. With the departures of Kristian Fardal-Opseth and Martin Bjørnbak, I think they could struggle in the new season though.
The newly promoted teams are Mjøndalen and Viking. Could one of them be the surprise team of 2019? I’m not sure. Looking at their 2018 season in OBOS-ligaen, Mjøndalen are a good defensive side, conceding 24 in 30 games. That’s less than any other team in the league, while quite a few teams scored more goals than them. Viking scored plenty, 68 goals in 30 games, but they did concede as many as 44 across the season. Ahead of their return to the top flight, they haven’t really improved their defence, so I wouldn’t touch any of their options at the back.
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