Rosenborg favored to win fifth-straight league title in 2019
Jo Christian Weldingh
Norway’s soccer league, Eliteserien, starts March 30, and Rosenborg Ballklub is once again considered title favorites. Their fans almost demand that they bring the league trophy back home to Trondheim.
After winning last year’s title, 15 and 16 points ahead of Molde and Brann, respectively, it’s hard not to pick Rosenborg as the No. 1 contender—especially considering the shake-ups the team had to contend with last season.
Still, it’s a new season and 16 teams will play 30 games each. Anything can happen, but most experts agree that it will end up being a fight between the big 3: Rosenborg, Molde, and Brann.
Brann from Bergen started last season looking like champions, but coach Lars Arne Nilsen’s guys collapsed after the summer break. At one point, they led the league by more than 10 points, but when the league started up in July, Brann seemed to be a different team than before the break. They ended up losing the silver to Molde.
With a newly renovated stadium, Brann is expected to get even better than before at their home grounds, so every team in the league will find it difficult to bring home points from their away games.
Coach Nilsen has strengthened an already strong squad. Two of Ranheim’s (seventh place last season) most important players last season, defender Christian Eggen Rismark and midfielder Kristoffer Løkberg (6 goals), have been brought to Bergen, joining returnees MF Fredrik Haugen and striker Daoude Karamoko Bamba (4G each).
Brann enters the 2019 season with quality in every position on the field and is a force to be reckoned with.
It’s hard to think about Molde without thinking about their coach, Ole Gunnar Solskjær. As a Molde coach, Solskjær has won two league titles and one cup title. Solskjær extended his contract with the club at the end of 2018 and will be nearing 10 seasons at the club’s helm if the contract is completed.
Before that journey begins, however, Solskjær will be spending six months managing for Manchester United, one of the most prestigious jobs soccer has to offer. If Solskjær does that job well—and so far, he has 10 wins in 12 games—he might be offered the job permanently. If that happens, Molde will have to make do without him for the foreseeable future.
Molde is often seen as the only Norwegian team with potential to give rival Rosenborg competition in the long term. That was not the case last season, even though they ended up in second place after a strong finish. They were out of the title race before the league was half finished.
One thing that speaks against success in 2019, other than Solskjær’s possible Manchester United exit, is the sale of the talented youngster Erlend Braut Håland, who scored 12 goals last season. His contributions will be sorely missed. On the plus side, offensive midfielder Magnus Wolff Eikrem has come back to Molde (4G in 14 games for Molde in 2018) after a failed career with MLS Seattle Sounders last year.
If Eikrem is a hit, MFs Fredrik Aursnes (9G) and Erik Hestad (8G) repeat their 2018 performances, and the potential loss of Solskjær doesn’t hit the club too hard, Molde will be Rosenborg’s biggest challenger for the league title.
The team from Trondheim is beginning to look as dominant as they used to be in the 1990s and 2000s, when they won 13 league titles in a row under legendary coach Nils Arne Eggen. This year they are hoping to win a fifth consecutive league title.
The surprising sacking of coach Kåre Ingebrigtsen, and star striker Nicklas Bendtner’s (5G) prison sentence, and the following internal unrest, dominated much of Rosenborg’s 2018 season and probably ended up influencing the team’s performance in a negative way. Now they have a new coach in Eirik Horneland, Bendtner has done his prison time, and the team seems more harmonic than in a long time.
With star players like MF Mike Jensen (6G), K Andre Hansen (29 games), D Tore Reginiussen (2G), and F Alexander Søderland (8G), who have been playing great over several seasons, Rosenborg has the stability to win matches week after week, all season.
With the biggest budget and the strongest squad in Norwegian soccer by far, Rosenborg is the clear title favorite once again.
Jo Christian Weldingh grew up in Lillehammer, Norway, and lives in Oslo. He has a bachelor’s degree in archaeology from the University of Oslo and a bachelor’s degree in business administration from BI Norwegian Business School.
This article originally appeared in the March 22, 2019, issue of The Norwegian American.