Sarpsborg v Strømsgodset
Both sides are currently in the top half of the table and are doing better than most expected this season. Sarpsborg under new manager Stefan Billborn have played some eye-catching entertaining football and at times have been rather unlucky in certain matches. They hammered Jerv 5-0 in their most recent Eliteserien game and Billborn’s switch to a more conventional 4-2-3-1 system this season seems to be working quite well. Sarpsborg had previously been managed by both Mickael Stahre and Lars Bohinen who employed a three man central defence and at times their games were quite boring and off-putting. There is certainly more of a buzz and excitement surrounding the team this year. Sarpsborg have the second-highest xG average per 90 mins out of any team (1.81) and they have legitimately converted that into 17 goals. There is work to be done at the other end of the field and their xGA of 1.70 per 90 mins ranks them 4th worst in the Eliteserien. This is a team which is relying on its attack force to fire them towards points.
Strømsgodset started the season badly by losing 3 of their first 4 games. They did not look like a very good team, and it felt like a continuation of their slump from the end of last season. But credit to the joint managers here who made a few tactical tweaks and changed the XI personnel. Godset are now 6 games unbeaten and haven’t lost away from home since the opening day of the campaign. This is in complete contrast to their road performances last season which saw them ranked the worst team in the entire league with just a solitary away victory. Godset are perhaps overperforming though and their average xGA per game of 1.55 ranks them 5th worst in the league. They have played well in some games but also got lucky on occasion, not least the 3-2 victory over Viking last time when realistically they were outplayed but just took their chances at the right time. The re-introduction of big target man striker Lars-Jørgen Salvesen into the team has been beneficial. He missed the entirety of last year with an ACL injury, but his physical presence has been crucial at both ends of the field. Centre back Ari Leiffson has performed well since coming into the XI as well.
The match result is difficult to predict. Sarpsborg have only won 1 out of 4 home games and their counter attacking style seems to be better suited to road matches right now. I sense they are the stronger side but at a price of 1.80, can’t really be trusted. I think a better selection here is to back over 2.5 goals. As aforementioned, both sides rank in the bottom five for xGA this season and each defence does look vulnerable. However, both offense’s rank in the top seven for xG and have plenty of scoring power. It is a close call whether to back over 2.5 goals or take both teams to score. Ultimately, there is probably a risk of one team blowing the other out and the 3-0 or 4-0 scoreline is potentially in play, so I prefer to take over 2.5. Something like a 2-2 draw or a 3-2 win for either side is very possible though and I am expecting an end-to-end type of fixture with a lot of chances.
Kristiansund vs Bodø/Glimt
The Eliteserien table does not make very good viewing for Kristiansund. They have just one point and lost 6 out of 7 matches. They have conceded exactly two goals per game on average, and they don’t need to be told by anyone that this is relegation form. KBK have only played 7 fixtures and both of their last two games were postponed because of a freak virus which ran through the playing squad and staff. They have also endured a nightmare injury situation, especially in defensive areas. Sigurd Kvile, Dan Peter Ulvestad and Aliou Coly are all expected to be ruled out again here. Kristiansund have not played a competitive game of football since 21st May which is nearly a whole month ago. They are probably going to be off the pace and extremely rusty. The fixture list could not have been more brutal with them now facing the defending champions who will be eager to get back on track following an indifferent start.
Pre-season favourites for the Eliteserien title were Bodø/Glimt but after nine games played they are down as low as 8th place. The international window came at a very good time for Kjetil Knutsen’s men because it looked like they needed a break and rest period to recharge their batteries. It has been a hectic 3 or 4 month period for the team from the Arctic Circle as they had to juggle both domestic and European matches. A run to the Quarterfinals of the Conference League and the final of the Norwegian Cup ensured they hardly had any room to breathe. In the league, Glimt have only lost twice; away against Viking and Molde, but probably the most surprising statistic has been zero clean sheets. This is despite them having the best xGA average in the league at just 1.03 per 90 mins. They are five goals worse off than they should be with this statistic.
Bodø/Glimt have made too many individual mistakes this season and goalkeeper Nikita Khaikin has especially been error prone. The manager has talked about working on a more collective teamwork responsibility during this international break and Glimt have been residing in Denmark for a footballing camp ahead of the resumption of the domestic season. They really should have too much for a Kristiansund side who are likely to be lacking match sharpness and also confidence. Knutsen has a great managerial record against Christian Michelsen, winning the last seven consecutive head to head meetings. They have the quality and class to claim what should ultimately be a comfortable victory. Backing Glimt to win at a price of 1.70 looks very generous facing a side who have picked up just one point this season.
Odd v Molde
It has been a strange season for Odd so far and they have very much lived up to their name tag as being a difficult side to predict, capable of random things. There was plenty of optimism pre-season surrounding this team and new manager Paco Johansen came highly rated. Things started well with 2 wins in their first 3 games but a run of four consecutive defeats raised question marks. Odd have bounced back by beating both Jerv and Ham Kam away from home and those were two victories which were desperately needed. Let’s not forget, that was only facing two newly promoted teams though. The new manager will point towards xG stats which sees them average 1.67 per 90 mins. They are nearly 8 goals short of what they should have obtained, and a glutton of missed chances have cost Odd dearly this season. Their defence has only kept two clean sheets and does not look very secure. With three consecutive home defeats in a row, it appears Odd are a better away side and have problems here at the Skagerak Arena.
Molde are now up to second place in the table after picking up five consecutive wins. They claimed a crucial 3-1 victory against key rivals Bodø/Glimt just before the international break and know they need to keep winning to keep their nine point gap to Kjetil Knutsen’s side. Of more concern right now is the form of Lillestrøm or even Viking but Molde are definitely the favourites to win the league as things stand. They have been plagued with injuries all season but have a huge squad, full of depth and quality which is hard to rival. Their injury situation is not so bad right now and the return of striker David Datro Fofana has been timely. The young Ivorian has yet to really make the impact which was expected of him at Molde but scoring two goals in his last two games, both of which were crucial, has been a good start to silencing his critics. Molde have the third highest average xG per game in the Eliteserien (1.75) and have goalscoring potential throughout the whole team, they don’t just rely on one man.
In a quirk of the fixture schedule, both of these two teams have already faced each other this season. Molde comfortably won the reverse match 3-0, although Odd were reduced to ten men for most of the contest. I sense a feeling of hunger and motivation from Molde this season. They are desperate to wrestle the title back after two years of Bodø/Glimt domination and anything less than 3 points won’t be acceptable here. Odd can be a difficult side to work out, but I would expect Molde to have too much strength and quality. They can be backed at 1.91 to win this match and that looks like the best bet. Odd have lost their last three straight home matches and against any decent sides tend to struggle quite a lot. This definitely seems like the right time to keep siding with Molde who are one of the red hot form teams in the Eliteserien.
Viking vs Sandefjord
Just 1 win in their last 5 games has dropped Viking down to 3rd place but their excellent start to the season can’t be forgotten. With 21 points on the board this team has to be considered a title challenger and if they can re-find their goalscoring touch then I expect them to bounce back fairly quickly. Viking lost 2-3 away to Strømsgodset just before the international break but it was a fixture they probably should have won; they just didn’t take their chances. Viking have the highest average xG per 90 mins out of any team (2.13). They also have the second best xGA average (1.09) and it would appear they should be doing even better than what their position suggests. The injury to key attacker Zlatko Tripic has hindered them in recent weeks. He has missed the majority of the last 6 games and is again doubtful for this fixture. Viking still have plenty of other firepower though such as the Eliteserien top scorer Veton Berisha. They are unbeaten at home this season with 4 wins and 2 draws, conceding just two goals.
Sandefjord travel here with a mixed record of 3 wins and 5 defeats with no draws. They have picked up all of their points away from home and are not a bad counter-attacking side. The big problem that Sandefjord have is conceding goals though. They have been penetrated 16 times in 8 games and this is no fluke because their xGA is 1.89 per 90 mins. They have struggled to keep things tight and not been helped by the season ending injury to centre back and captain Sander Foss. Midfielder Sander Mork has also been recently revealed to be suffering from a long term injury due to complications with a broken foot and could miss the entire campaign. Statistically, Sandefjord are one of the worst teams in the league and their xG per 90 mins of just 0.90 is the lowest of any team in the league. They have problems at both ends of the field and can consider themselves lucky to have 9 points.
Viking should win this match fairly comfortably. The key question is how to approach this game from a betting perspective. Viking are a very short price to win so the -1 handicap might be a better option to consider. However, I think an even better option at a good price is to back Viking to score over 2.5 goals. This is a matchup between statistically the best offensive team in the Eliteserien against one of the worst defensive sides. Viking are definitely capable of scoring 3 or more goals in this game on their own. Rather than worrying about if they win, or how many they win by, then simply taking the home team to hit the back of the net on at least three occasions looks like the overall best option.
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