Odd v Sarpsborg
Both teams are in terrible form heading into this match and would dearly love to win. The last time Odd played was two weeks ago and they have had plenty of time to lick their wounds because it was a 0-7 defeat to Bodø/Glimt. They got absolutely battered by the defending Eliteserien champions and Odd are now down as low as 12th place on 20 points. They can’t be judged on an away match vs Bodø/Glimt but it was a worrying performance. A lot more was expected from Odd this season. Under new manager Paco Johansen they were seen as a prime candidate to climb up the table or at least avoid any serious relegation worries. There are still 12 games left but Odd have flattered to deceive and only the current bottom three have lost more games than them (10). Odd have especially struggled at home and now lost a whopping 6 of their last 7 fixtures here at the Skagerak Arena. They rank second worst for average xG per match (2.01) and have often been indebted to goalkeeper Leopold Wahlstedt who has been their best player this season.
Sarpsborg are now inside the bottom three after losing six consecutive Eliteserien matches. They started the season in pretty good form and new manager Stefan Billborn received a lot of plaudits for his high intensity and highly entertaining style which was very watchable. This team have become a defensive disaster though and conceded a lot of goals this season, 35 in total which is one of the worst records of any team in the division. A lot of defensive players in this team are devoid of any confidence and struggling to cope with the demands of such high risk tactics. Sarpsborg have the 9th best overall away record but have lost their last four consecutive road games conceding 13 goals in the process. They are another team who have one of the worst average xGAs per 90 mins (1.91). However, they do have goals in them and their 32 netted is only toppled by three other teams in the entire league.
The manager who loses this game could be under severe pressure. It is a battle between two teams who can’t defend and who are quite desperate to get the victory. These sorts of contests usually end in high scoring matches so taking over 2.5 goals makes the most sense. A massive 7 out of 8 Sarpsborg away games have contained at least three goals and their road fixtures average 4.5 goals per game. Odd are very similar with 7 of their 9 home fixtures ending over 2.5. Odd haven’t kept a home clean sheet since the first match of the season. This is an obvious selection, and everything is pointing towards a high scoring contest. Either team could win but typically something like a 2-2 draw can’t be ruled out.
Lillestrøm v Sandefjord
Winning the title is not out of reach for Lillestrøm but they suffered a massive blow last week when they lost 0-1 away to struggling Jerv. There is no way that Geir Bakke’s men should have lost the match because they were by far the better team and created the bigger chances. They created a massive xG of 2.90 in that fixture but failed to hit the back of the net a single time! Striker Holmbert Fridjonsson and midfielder Tobias Svendsen were especially guilty in the second half of missing some huge opportunities. Svendsen himself has now decided to take an indefinite break from football due to some mental health problems Lillestrøm are badly missing the influence of striker Akor Adams who is likely to miss the next 3-4 weeks due to a shoulder problem. LSK do at least have a great home record to fall back on and have won 6 out of 8 fixtures here at Åråsen Stadion.
Sandefjord travel here having lost 2-5 vs Rosenborg last week. They are a very inconsistent team but have to be classed as having a good season, currently in 10th place on 21 points. Considering their resources and squad, Sandefjord have done well. However, they’re not without problems. Their defensive record of 39 goals conceded is absolutely terrible and the worst in the league. They won’t be helped by the suspension of centre back Jesper Taaje and likely injury to Quint Jansen. Sandefjord also have some injury doubts to wingers Franklin Nyenetue and Youssef Chaib. They are spearheaded by the excellent Mohammed Ofkir who has had a brilliant season netting 10 goals, the second most of any player in the league. Alexander Ruud Tveter has also weighed in with seven goals and had an impressive year. Sandefjord’s defence continues to be an Achilles heel though and their average xGA per 90 mins of 1.99 shows they haven’t simply been unlucky.
Lillestrøm should win the match, but they are a short price to prevail at 1.30. Now that they have been eliminated from Europa Conference League qualifying, they can fully focus on the league and try to finish as high as they can in the medal positions. Last week’s defeat at Jerv was a bitter blow but realistically it was a freak game in which they somehow failed to score. A massive 16 out of 18 Sandefjord matches have contained over 2.5 goals so usually taking the goals is the best line of attack in their fixtures. I think it is worth value hunting for a better price though and combining Lillestrøm to win and over 2.5 goals to be scored is at 1.73. The hosts could cover this on their own with a 3-0 or 4-0 win, but it also brings the 2-1 scoreline into play. This is an excellent price for what is ultimately quite a likely outcome.
Vålerenga v Tromsø
Vålerenga were just a couple of minutes away from making it six consecutive Eliteserien wins against Ham Kam last week. They should have secured the match earlier but conceded a late equaliser and could only draw 1-1. Vålerenga won the xG battle 1.86 to 0.67 last week which further demonstrates that they should have won the fixture. There is no doubt that Dag Eilev Fagermo’s men have been one of the red hot form teams in the league recently and now climbed to a comfortable 6th position in the table. The manager was close to the sack a few weeks ago but demonstrated his excellent tactical and man-management skills to turn around what looked like a hopeless situation. Young starlet Osame Sahraoui has especially been in brilliant form and all that is lacking with him now are some more goals. New signing upfront Torgeir Børven could prove to be a shrewd addition. He is a proven Eliteserien goalscorer who has recently been playing in Turkish football. Vålerenga have been needing extra firepower in attack and will give them a reliable option.
Tromsø are in reasonable form and unbeaten in their last four consecutive Eliteserien matches. They have moved up to 9th place on 21 points and still have a game in hand on most other teams. Tromsø have drawn a lot of matches this season, 9 in total which is an unusually high number. They played in the midweek Norwegian Cup and won on penalties after extra time vs Ham Kam. It is good they progressed into the next round, but they only have 4 days to recover and now are travelling on the road again. They did rotate their team a bit but the whole process of the match continuing for that long will have affected the squad both mentally and physically. Key attacker August Mikkelsen is doubtful with injury and so is centre back Christophe Psyche. Tromsø are one of just two teams who are yet to win away from home this season although they have drawn 6 out of 9 road games.
There is always a risk of a draw in any Tromsø match, but this feels like a good time to bet against them. Vålerenga are in excellent form and look capable of beating pretty much anyone right now. Tromsø have not been able to assert themselves on the road as much this season and could be fatigued after their midweek cup match. Taking the home team to win at odds of 1.67 looks like the best bet and they are in a good position to pick up all three points.
Rosenborg v Aalesund
Rosenborg have been in such good form that they might yet drag themselves into the title race. They are unbeaten in eight consecutive Eliteserien matches and won their last four straight. Manager Kjetil Rekdal has done a good job here instilling hard work and better squad discipline. The confidence within the squad has clearly risen and now they are starting to score more freely. The recent signing of Casper Tengstedt upfront has been a revelation. He scored on his debut vs Ham Kam and then netted a hat-trick vs Sandefjord last week during a 5-2 win. He looks like an excellent pickup from Danish club Horsens and new Icelandic signing Kristall Mani Ingasson is another exciting addition. Rosenborg have just this week reinforced their defence by signing Leo Cornic from Swedish club Djurgården. RBK have a tremendous home record with 6 wins, 2 draws and no defeats. The Lerkendal Stadion has always been quite a fortress and is the biggest club football ground in the whole of Norway.
Aalesund travel here in poor form. They have only won one of their last nine Eliteserien games and lost their last three consecutively. Aalesund have often been referred to as the ‘West Brom or Norwich of Norway’ and are a constant yo-yo club. They have equipped themselves much better this year under the management of Lars Arne Nilsen, but this mid-season slump is rather worrying. Aalesund are especially toothless in attack and their 19 goals scored is the joint third lowest in the league. Seven of those goals were scored by Sigurd Haugen who was transferred to Danish side Aarhus last month for £1.35m. They have yet to replace him, and this week revealed the bad news that attacking midfielder Kristoffer Odemarksbakken is ruled out for the rest of the season due to an ACL injury. He memorably scored a goal from the halfway line against Bodø/Glimt a few weeks ago. Aalesund have the third lowest xG per 90 mins of any team (1.32) and it is hard to see them scoring a goal in this match.
The reverse fixture ended in a 0-0 draw and Aalesund will probably try and aim for a similar type of outcome. Their gameplan is likely to be extremely defensive but this Rosenborg side is now much better offensively since the two teams last faced off. I think this should result in a comfortable home victory so taking Rosenborg on a -1 handicap at a generous price of 2.10 looks like a very attractive bet. There is a good chance they win this match to nil and the 2-0 or 3-0 scoreline seems very likely. Even if Aalesund do score then Rosenborg now have the offensive firepower to win by at least a two goal margin.
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