Category Archives: Eliteserien Season Previews 2021

Strømsgodset Season Preview 2021

Strømsgodset Defence

On paper this isn’t actually the worst looking defence but they always seem to end up with a lot of injuries or something not clicking. First choice keeper Viljar Myhra had a strong 2020 campaign and for a time was one of the best keepers in the league. He came up with some big stops and will be important for them again. Morten Saetra as backup isn’t the worst option. Godset have a very good young fullback in the form of Nico Mickelson, who was recently linked with a move away form the club. He can play on either side and SIF also have Lars Vilsvik and Jonathan Parr who are now older but who can still do a decent job. At centre back the likes of Gunnarsson, Leifsson, Fosnaess Hanssen & Duplexe Tchamba will be battling it out for positions, and let’s not forget left back Prosper Mendy who missed the majority of last season with injury. New signing Gustav Valsvik once played for the club and looks like an excellent addition to the backline. To be honest they are actually loaded with a plethora of defensive options. A lot of the Godset defenders are incredible injury prone so it’s a good job they have plenty of depth. I could see a lack of consistency in this backline which might hinder its efficiency. Jack Ipalibo & Herman Stengel are reasonable DMID options. The potential is there for Godset to be decent at the back but I just sense something will go wrong and they end up leaking goals.

Key players - Nico Mickelson (fullback), Gustav Valsvik (CB)

Strømsgodset Offense

It was a massive blow that Lars-Jørgen Salvesen injured his ACL in pre pre-season and is out for the whole year. He scored 10 goals and provided 10 assists last season and was a real monster for them upfront. Salvesen is a physical presence with technical skill who will be virtually impossible to replace. Godset had signed Freed Friday and it was exciting to see both of them together but now they will lean on Friday to be the main hitman. His career has taken a nosedive over in Holland but if the LSK version of Friday shows up then SIF have a real weapon on their hands. Strømsgodset have a couple of strong midfielders, Mikkel Maigaard & Johan Hove . Maigaard is more the playmaker, whilst Hove actually chipped in with 10 goals last season and is an excellent runner who gets himself into some very scorable positions. Godset lack a bit out wide and need more from the likes of Kristoffer Tokstad & Ingimundarsson. Moses Mawa might need to step up more as well this season and he needs to improve on his 6 goals and just 1 assist if he’s going to feature at left wing. Godset should in theory be able to score goals but obviously losing Salvesen to injury was a massive blow.

Key players - Mikkel Maigaard (CM), Fred Friday (Striker)

Coaching, other factors & conclusion

This is not a great area for Godset. During the winter there was a big scandal involving former manager Henrik Pedersen, who was accused of racial comments to players. The end result is that his position became fairly untenable but things were done in a messy way which left a sour taste. Pedersen possibly underachieved at the club anyway and never really lived up to the promise after when he first got appointed. Godset now have a dual coaching team in charge Bjorn Petter Ingebretsen & Hakon Wibe Lund. Both have managed the club before but it looked like SIF had moved on from those eras. This is only an interim position for both and long term I am sure the club are looking for an individual to take charge on a more permanent basis. Godset have had issues off the field for a few years now, always some sort of unrest or distraction affecting them. This has spilled onto the field all too often and the amount of times this team on paper has failed to live up to its potential has been incredible. Once again they look to have a fairly decent squad which should be capable of a midtable finish but you just know something will go wrong here. Almost inexplicably I could see them fighting a relegation battle because when the doom and gloom sets in here it really seems to stick. Maybe they can turn a corner in 2021 but I’m not convinced.

Prediction: 14th

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Lillestrøm Season Preview 2021

Lillestrøm Defence

LSK have shifted on and changed a lot of the backline and defensive areas compared to last season. Mads Christiansen was the starting goalkeeper in the OBOS Ligaen but I would expect loanee from Molde Alex Craninx to be the #1 this year. It could change though and this is maybe a competitive situation where Christiansen could force his way in eventually. Gone are the likes of Simen Rafn, Aleksander Melgavis & Marius Amundsen. Lillestrøm have added Igoh Ogbu, an ex Rosenborg player who comes in from Sogndal. He’s a big lad, got some presence and also the type of character they need in central defence. Left back Vetle Dragsnes comes in from Mjøndalen and maybe he might thrive in an environment which is a little less defensively minded. Youngsters Philip Slordahl & Lars Ranger are expected to get significant minutes this season, which could be a risk. Espen Garnas is another option along with Simen Kind Mikalsen when he’s fit. Right back could be a problem area, I’m not entirely sure who is going to slot in there. LSK aren’t exactly loaded at defensive midfield with only Kaan Kairinen a natural. Ifeanyi Matthew could be classed as a DMID as well but probably best suited to a box to box role. This Lillestrøm defence will have it’s good and bad days. There is some potential here but it could depend how a couple of the youngsters adapt to Eliteserien level.

Key players - Igoh Ogbu (CB), Kaan Kairinen (DM)

Lillestrøm Offense

I’m encouraged by what I see here. LSK have some really good midfield runners like Ifeanyi Matthew & Fredrik Krogstad who could give them good drive in the middle of the park. Gjermund Åsen, who is on loan from Rosenborg should be a fantastic addition as well. He’s capable of playing anywhere in midfield or the final third and if he can avoid injury could be set for a huge year. LSK have signed Pål Andre Helland from RBK and he is a very classy addition if he can avoid injuries. There is sadly little chance of that but I’m sure he can still contribute in a positive way. There were times last season when Helland looked in red hot form and if he can replicate that then LSK have a major weapon at their disposal, especially if he’s hungry to perform. Helland is also a wizard from set pieces which will be crucial for this team. Lillestrøm have other wide options in Daniel Gustavsson & Tobias Svendsen. Of course, upfront they have Thomas Lehne Olsen who is a proven goalscorer at Eliteserien level if given the service. He is a big target man, physical type of striker who also has a decent technical touch. LSK have signed Kent Havard Eriksen from OBOS side Sandnes, another big lad who has never been given a chance at this level. He is however a proven scorer in the OBOS so deserves this opportunity. There is definitely some potential in this LSK offense and I can see them being quite threatening, especially with some good crosses and direct football into the big lads.

Key players - Thomas Lehne Olsen (Striker), Gjermund Åsen (wings/AMID)

Coaching, other factors & conclusion

Geir Bakke came in to take charge last season and his one objective was to achieve a bounceback promotion to the Eliteserien. It wasn’t always pretty but Bakke managed to secure a 2nd place finish. He is a vastly experienced coach who has a history of success in the Eliteserien, and even led Sarpsborg to the group stage of the Europa League not so long ago. Bakke used to be a big 4-4-2 merchant but has been operating a 4-3-3 at LSK, which looks like continuing. Don’t be surprised to see Bakke go back to his 4-4-2 roots though at some stage, because he appears to have the personnel for it. Bakke is quite a balanced coach and his teams usually get stuck in and are quite physical. I don’t think Lillestrøm will lack for goals this season because they have a number of interesting options in the final third. They’ll also be dangerous from set pieces. The defence might lack a bit of depth and quality and there will be days when they get exposed. This is a club hungry to get back where it belongs though and fans will believe the ambition of being an established Eliteserien club is totally fair. In terms of a league position they are quite hard to predict but they are definitely my idea of a dark horse this season. Their ceiling might even be as high as 6th, although if things go wrong then mid to lower table. I would be surprised if LSK got sucked into any sort of relegation battle because they appear to have the quality both on the field and the set up off the field needed to succeed.

Prediction: 7th

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Mjøndalen Season Preview 2021

Mjøndalen Defence

In goal Sosha Makani is a major asset for MIF. He came up with some really big saves last season and he knows he will be tested again. You could argue he’s the most important player in this team. Mjøndalen have a number of backup keepers at their disposal, but none are close to Makani’s level. The central defensive partnership of Sondre Johansen & Markus Nakkim is another positive for MIF. They will be solid, hard to beat in the air and are maybe an underrated duo in this league. Both can cause some problems from attacking set pieces as well, something Mjøndalen always work really hard on. I am less sure about MIF in the fullback department. It looks like new signing from OBOS Side Ull/Kisa Nikolas Walstad will be the starter at left back but only time will tell if he’s ready for the top league. Right back could be a toss up between William Sell and Syver Eriksen, or even new loan signing from Viking Sebastian Sebulonsen. Mjøndalen lack defensive depth although Joachim Olsen Solberg is very useful for his versatility. Isaac Twum and Stian Aasmundsen aren’t the worst of options to have at DMID.

Key players - Sosha Makani (GK), Sondre Johansen (CB)

Mjøndalen Offense

MIF only scored a miserable 26 goals last season, easily the lowest in the league. They were very fortunate to stay up having scored so few and there’s no way they can expect to avoid relegation unless something changes in this department. Nothing has really changed though, apart from the addition of striker Benjamin Stokke. He will be a useful job but I can’t see Stokke being the hitman that Mjøndalen crave. Another option is Ibrahim Shuaibu and he along with Stokke will probably rotate upfront. The big concern is general creativity and approach. Mjøndalen are often defensively minded so will probably create less clear cut chances than any other side. They are dangerous from set pieces but from open play you sometimes wonder where the goals are going to come from. Midfielder Martin Ovenstad actually led their assists chart last season, but he can be an inconsistent player with up and down form. Old dog Christian Gauseth returns for another season but quite what he has left in the tank now I’m not sure. Brochmann & Brustad will have occasional good games but once again I am fearful for MIF in the final third of the field. They will surely lack for goals and I just don’t see them creating that many chances.

Key players - Martin Ovenstad (midfield), Benjamin Stokke (striker)

Coaching, other factors & conclusion

In Vegard Hansen Mjøndalen have a very good manager who gets the absolute most out of this team. Let’s be clear, in terms of resources MIF probably have the lowest budget out of anyone and it is always going to be a major challenge to make them competitive at this level. Hansen has worked miracles to avoid relegation in two consecutive seasons but I would be surprised if he managed to do it again. The one thing that saved MIF last year, apart from lack of VAR in the playoff match, was the lack of draws. They managed to rack up 8 wins, 3 draws and a staggering 19 defeats but I have said many times you are better off winning and losing rather than drawing. Mjøndalen can be a really awkward team to face at home when they get their teeth stuck in and winning 6 out of 15 here in front of their own fans wasn’t a bad record for a side that finished 3rd bottom. The problem is going to be back of goals, even if they might be hard to break down sometimes. Mjøndalen will fight for their lives and give absolutely everything but only Sandefjord can really rival them for having the worst squad on paper in the Eliteserien. They have to hope that 2 or 3 teams have stinkers of a season otherwise they’ll be heading towards the OBOS Ligaen in my opinion.

Prediction: 15th

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Sandefjord Season Preview 2021

Sandefjord Defence

Jacob Storevik had a fantastic season in between the sticks last year. He made a glutton of saves and was really impressive. I have to say I’m a little bit surprised Sandefjord managed to keep him and that nobody really came in with a decent offer. Whilst it was a positive that Storevik saved so well, it was of course a negative he had the chance to face so many shots. Sandefjord were perhaps a bit lucky in terms of xG numbers both for and against, something which perhaps they can’t sustain this year. Frederik Due comes in from the USA as a backup option along with Jesper Granlund. The Sandefjord defence is an honest bunch of players but to be brutally honest does lack quality. I quite like right back Brice Wembangomo but not a lot else gets me excited about this backline. The retirement of Lars Grorud could leave a void both in terms of his experience but also leadership. Lars Markanrud isn’t a bad young prospect who at times impressed last year, otherwise Sandefjord are relying on the likes of Kreuzriegler & Marc Valles who are too inconsistent for my liking. One of the best areas for Sandefjord is defensive midfield where they have the likes of Harmeet Singh and new signings Amer Ordagic & Andre Sodlund. I like them in the central areas of the field and this could be an area where teams underestimate them. I’m sure they’ll dig in as hard as they can but the lack of overall quality in the backline will ultimately cost quite a lot of goals.

Key players - Jacob Storevik (GK), Brice Wembangomo (RB)

Sandefjord Offense

With just 31 goals scored, Sandefjord had one of the lowest tallies in the entire Eliteserien 2020. Sivert Gussias and Rufo were joint top scorers, bagging 7 each and they really need someone to step up this season. Rufo has moved on and Gussias might struggle due to the lack of service. He was a pleasant surprise last year but isn’t the sort of striker who will put much fear into the opposition defences. It is a concern that there’s not been many offensive additions this winter. Franklin ‘Daddys Boy’ Nyenetue comes in from OBOS side Stjordals Blink and could be an interesting young prospect. Sandefjord might have to rely on goals coming from midfield or set pieces because they look fairly toothless out wide and upfront. Vidar Ari Jonsson will probably operate on one of the wings but he’s more of a natural defender rather than attack minded. I just don’t see enough from Sandefjord in the final third of the field and unless some youngsters step up or they reinforce in the transfer market it could be a low scoring year for the club

Key player - Sivert Gussias (striker)

Coaching, other factors & conclusion

Spanish coach Marti Cifuentes did a magnificent job last season leading Sandefjord to an 11th place finish. He got the absolute maximum out of the team and I am still of the belief that on paper they had the worst squad in the league. Sandefjord massively overachieved but unfortunately they haven’t been able to keep their manager, which is a huge blow. A similar thing happened 2-3 years ago when they lost Lars Bohinen and then the next season finished rock bottom. Sandefjord have a duel management team in place for 2021 Bjarte Lunde Aarsheim and Andreas Tegstrom. Quite how this will work out I’m not sure and only time will tell. It is going to be a big challenge though because once again on paper it would appear Sandefjord have one of the worst squads in the league. Sandefjord were good on the road last season, actually ending with the 6th best away record and that will be something else difficult to replicate. I think they can be solid on their day but there’s a serious lack of attacking weapons and firepower. Can they rely on keeping things tight in this league? I do worry for Sandefjord and I think they will finish bottom of the table to be honest. They won’t lack for fight but over the course of a long campaign I’d be surprised if they can avoid direct relegation. At best they can probably manage the playoff spot.

Prediction: 16th

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Odd Season Preview 2021

Odd Defence

In between the sticks Sondre Rossbach is a pretty dependable option. There was a time when Rossbach was heralded as an amazing prospect who would soon be leaving the league, but he hasn’t quite kicked on as expected. He’s still only young at 24 years old but it feels like his development has stagnated. The current backup keeper is set to be Leopald Wahlstadt, who I know nothing about to be honest. Egil Selvik has moved on so they could have issues should Rossbach miss any significant gametime. The backline stays very similar compared to last season, with the addition of Solomon Owusu, a small but good technical defender from OBOS side Raufoss. Perhaps of concern is the reliance on two older players Espen Ruud and Steffen Hagen. Ruud is injured until mid season anyway but at the age of 37 and 35 respectively, both aren’t spring chickens anymore. The good news for Odd is that they have some younger players who are ready to step up. Odin Bjortuft had a really solid campaign last year and maybe Bjorn Maeland and Kevin Johnsen are ready for more minutes this year. On the left hand side John Kitolano is another top young player and will be the indisputable starter. Odd have some options at defensive midfield in the form of veteran new signing Magnus Lekven and one of their own Filip Ronningen Jorgensen who I think could be one to really watch this year.

Key players - Espen Ruud (RB), Odin Bjortuft (CB)

Odd Offense

Mushaga Bakenga proved all of his doubters wrong last season by scoring 15 goals in 26 games. I have to admit I was very dubious about his signing for many different reasons, but fair play to him he was very impressive in front of goal! It seems like his style really suits the Odd 4-3-3 system where he gets into some great positions and there is less of a need for himself to go out wide and turn provider. It is worth mentioning that right back Espen Ruud weighed in with 11 assists and 6 goals last season and is a wizard from set pieces. He’s out injured until the middle of summer and will be badly missed until then. Vebjorn Hoff moving to Rosenborg is also a blow because he was often the instigator of a lot of attacks starting in midfield. Rodic, Simovic & Rashani have all left but the re-signing of Sander Svendsen is an interesting one. If you are after raw production of goals and assists he often fails to deliver, but his movement and impact on the game can’t be underestimated sometimes. Gilli Rolantson and Kristoffer Larsen will come in and add good depth to the wide areas, whilst Conrad Wallem from Arendal could be a prospect to watch out for. From creative central midfield Josh Kitolano and Markus Kaasa are good box to box type runners who have nice drive and energy but perhaps they lack a central playmaker type. Let’s not forget how young Josh Kitolano is at just 19 years and he really is a fantastic prospect who has done brilliantly to already nail down a starting spot. Tobias Lauritsen, a wide target man sort of player could rebound after an injury plagued 2020. There’s definitely goals in this team but a lot does rest on the shoulders of Bakenga finishing well again.

Key players - Mushaga Bakenga (striker), Josh Kitolano (midfield)

Coaching, other factors & conclusion

Odd finished 7th last season but would have ended up much better had they not lost 6 of their last 7 games. The squad got hit by COVID, leading to a fixture backlog and they basically couldn’t cope. Head coach Jan Frode Nornes was unlucky something like that happened because it was otherwise an excellent first season in charge. The transition from Dag Eilev Fagermo to Nornes was actually very smooth and Odd play with the same 4-3-3 system they always have. Odd won 8 of their first 12 home league games in 2020 and they were pretty formidable at the Skagerak Arena. On the road there is definitely some improvement to be had as they lost 8 out of 15. I think Odd can have a pretty solid season in midtable and they will cause the occasional surprise against some of the bigger teams. I just think they could have a slight regression on last season though. Expectations will probably be high, can Bakenga stay hot again and how badly will the Ruud injury affect them? Odd don’t have the deepest of squads, especially in defensive areas so could be in trouble if injuries really set in. It should still be a comfortable and enjoyable campaign for Odd though and they’ll certainly have some good days on the field.

Prediction: 9th

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Tromsø Season Preview 2021

Tromsø Defence

In the 2020 OBOS Ligaen Tromsø had the 2nd best defensive record. The big change is that long standing CB Simen Wangberg has recently moved to Stabaek, and this leaves a big hole. They’ll need to replace him before the end of this window. Jostein Gundersen is a regular starter who is now going to be very important to them. Isak Amundsen, on loan from rivals Bodø/Glimt could end up as another option at the back here. Casper Oyvann, signed from cross town rivals Tromsdalen could be getting more minutes than expected. Goalkeeper could be a problem slot with Jakob Karlstrom relatively untested at this level and they  look very lightweight with GK backup options. TIL have wingback possibilities in the form of Lasse Nilsen, Kent Are Antonsen & new signing from Sogndal Tomas Totland. They look especially strong with depth down the left hand side. Tromsø have a number of players in their squad with no definitive position and there’s lots of versatility. Sometimes they can end up in a situation where square pegs are fitting round holes which obviously is problematic. Antonsen, potentially Amundsen and veteran midfield Ruben Jenssen are options in defensive midfield, with Jenssen especially set to be extremely key. It will be interesting to see how this 3-5-2 system adapts to Eliteserien level. In the past, some of their defenders have been fairly week in the top league so I’m not convinced they will be particularly tight defensively. Time will tell though.

Key players - Jostein Gundersen (CB), Ruben Jenssen (DM)

Tromsø Attack

Utility man Kent Are Antonsen, along with attacking midfielder Eric Kitolano were joint top scorers for them last season, netting 11 goals each. I don’t think either can be relied upon to score those sort of numbers again so they are probably going to need one of the strikers to step up. That man could well be Runar Espejord, who is a fantastically talented attacker who sadly has a terrible injury record. Espejord needs to be wrapped in cotton wool and will almost certainly go down at some point, probably with some sort of significant injury that leaves him out for weeks or even a couple of months. However, if he could somehow stay fit then I would fancy him to score at least 10-12 times. Tromsø will hope that new attacker signed from Ham Kam, Moses Ebiye can make a difference. The likes of Mikael Ingebrigtsen & Daniel Berntsen will be expected to contribute as well. They could ideally do with a couple more pieces of quality but I think there’s the potential for them to go alright in the final third. Like with all parts of Tromsø, inconsistency will likely be an issue though.

Key players - Runar Espejord (Striker), Eric Kitolano (AM/ATT)

Coaching, other factors & conclusion

Tromsø are now managed by Gaute Helstrup who is a 3-5-2 merchant. In his first season at the club he led them to the OBOS Ligaen title as TIL won the league on 63 points. In the last decade or so they have at times been a bit of a yo-yo club and usually battling against relegation in the Eliteserien. They need to make the most of their very northerly home advantage in the Arctic Circle, something which previous coach Simo Valakari couldn’t really achieve. Maybe this version of Tromsø is a bit tougher because they won 12 out of 15 fixtures at Alfheim Stadion last season. Away form is usually a big problem for TIL, who historically struggle on their travels. Let's get real here. This is going to be a season battling against relegation but I do wonder whether they can use their promotion bounce, plus a few other factors to just about keep afloat. I suspect Tromsø are going to be really fired up and motivated this season and their unusual 3-5-2 approach could give them some positive mismatches at times. It will be a scrap to survive but TIL look better equipped than last time they were in the Eliteserien.

Prediction: 13th

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Brann Season Preview 2021

Brann Defence

They conceded a whopping 49 goals last season and didn’t defend very well. The goalkeeping situation is that 39 year old Hakon Opdal is set to be #1 custodian. He will be pushed by Markus Pettersen and Eirik Johansen and as a whole this goalkeeping crop isn’t too bad. Opdal, for his age does ok but they are lacking a star quality keeper that you feel a club like Brann deserves. A few defenders such as Acosta & Fjoluson have left the club over the winter which might not be a bad thing. I would have liked to have seen a couple of new arrivals, although return loanee David Moller Wolfe might rack up some minutes at left back. A couple of old dogs Vegard Forren & Thomas Grogaard showed their limitations last season and I would expect to see Ole Martin Kolskogen as their key centre back this season. Brann have a lot of players who can play the fullback role so they don’t lack for depth, but is there enough stand out quality? Blomberg, Rasmussen & Grogaard often end up playing in different positions in midfield as well, so sometimes there isn’t enough consistency. This isn’t the worst looking defence by any means and after a whole offseason you’d think Kare Ingebrigtsen has worked to try and improve it. Defensive midfield options for Brann include Daniel Pedersen & Kristoffer Barmen who are serviceable without setting the world alight.

Key players - Vegard Forren (CB) & Ole Martin Kolskogen (CB)

Brann Offense

Daouda Bamba led the Brann goalscoring charts netting 10 times last season. He also contributed with 6 assists but it should have been much better. Bamba greatly underachieved compared to his xG numbers and simply missed way too many chances. He could rebound this year but Brann definitely need more output from him if they are to move up the table in 2021. In Petter Strand, the Bergen outfit have a really excellent versatile player who can feature in pretty much any attacking or midfield position. I suspect he will be used more on the left wing or central creative midfield and should chip in with a number of assists when you also consider the fact he’ll be on a lot of set pieces. Brann will hope that new signings Kasper Skaanes, Filip Delaveris & Moonga Simba can offer them some extra options in the final third. Should Bamba continue to fail upfront then they might give Aunde Selland Heggebo some more starts. Fredrik Haugen, Gilli Sorensen & Sander Svendsen have now left the club so it feels like a different sort of fresher approach this season. But they probably still lack a couple of big weapons. So much does rest on the shoulders of Bamba and he is the key man for many reasons.

Key players - Petter Strand (all areas) & Daouda Bamba (striker)

Coaching, other factors & conclusion

Kare Ingebrigtsen is a very experienced coach and won many things during his spell at Rosenborg. This is a different sort of challenge trying to bring Brann back up towards the top of Norwegian football and I sense it could be a long process. They are in a period of transition but I don’t really see enough in their squad to suggest they’ll challenge the top six. Ingebrigtsen doesn’t bring with him any ‘proper’ identity. Yes, you know that they will play 4-3-3 but the style can change a lot. That was fine at Rosenborg because he had the best players in the league but here in Bergen he doesn’t have that luxury. Brann won’t be bad by any means and can probably cause issues to anyone on the day. But I suspect they will be plagued by inconsistency and matches in which they flatter to deceive where they are too much under par. Last season, Brann had the 4th worst home record and they really need to improve on that in 2021. They are the sort of team who miss full stadiums where their fans can make a real difference. I expect them to hover around midtable this year and this is probably going to be a mediocre season for Brann at best.

Prediction: 8th

Meatmansoccer predicted best XI and formation

Kristiansund Season Preview 2021

Kristiansund Defence

Kristiansund have a very good goalkeeper in Sean McDermott. He missed more than half of last season due to a hand injury and only started the last 11 fixtures. I don’t think he was at his best in 2020 understandably, but I would expect a big rebound this season and for McDermott to save KBK quite a lot of points. Estonian Andreas Vaikla is the backup custodian and would do an ok job if needed. The only real loss at the back is Christophe Psyche, but his starts on the field were starting to reduce anyway. The rest of the defence stays intact with Andreas Hopmark, Dan Peter Ulvestad & left back Christoffer Aasbak are key men for KBK in this area. Other options are Ivar Furu, new signing Snorre Strand Nilsen & return loanee Erlend Sivertsen. Young centre back Max Williamsen is one to watch and could be a real talent for the future. KBK have some strong lads in midfield like Amidou Diop & Ousseynou Diagne, plus Hopmark if needed so they have reasonable options in DMID. # Expect plenty of rotation as always with this team and despite having some off days Kristiansund will be more than competitive defensively.

Key players - Sean McDermott (GK), Andreas Hopmark (DC/DM)

Kristiansund Offense

The first place to start is with the obvious loss of Amahl Pellegrino. In just 39 appearances for KBK he scored a mammoth 33 goals and provided 9 assists. Any team would struggle with the departure of such a beast and it will be interesting to see how Kristiansund cope. Bringing back ex player Torgil Gjertsen should help them and he is a creative winger who can cause teams problems. Agon Mucolli from Danish 2nd tier side Federicia could be an interesting prospect and maybe some of the players within the current squad like youngster Oskar Sivertsen can step up and develop. Let’s not forget, nobody expected Pellegrino to be so good after moving here from Godset and Kristiansund can be a place for certain players to thrive. It is still a concern where goals come from though. Flamur Kastrati seems to have lost his touch in the penalty area, whilst other potential striker options like Bendik Bye and Faris ‘Pemi’ Moumbagna aren’t who you’d describe as ‘clinical’. KBK do have some good creative options out wide and centrally though. The likes of Olaus Skarsem and Liridon Kalludra are perhaps underrated and Mido Diop can be a real beast of a playmaker if in the right mood. Sander Erik Kartum from OBOS side Blink could be one to watch. Losing Sondre Sorlli to Bodo/Glimt is another negative though. I just don’t see how Kristiansund can be as prolific in front of goal this season, but knowing this club they will find a way to be competitive in the final third at least.

Key players - Mido Diop (Midfield), Liridon Kalludra (Midfield)

Coaching, other factors & conclusion

Christian Michelsen has worked wonders at Kristiansund and led them to 7th, 5th, 6th and 5th place finishes since they came into the Eliteserien in 2017. He has vastly overachieved with the tools at his disposal and every year seems to prove pundits wrong with a sensational top half finish. Michelsen is one of the best counter attacking coaches in the league and you will rarely see Kristiansund up there in the possession charts. His teams always attack quickly, with vigour and electricity and are also very dangerous from set pieces. At some stage they will slip down the table and just have a ‘normal’ year and this could be the season. Losing such a big weapon in Pellegrino is going to hurt massively and whilst I’m sure they will be fine and safe in midtable, we can’t expect miracles from Kristiansund every year. Their home record is usually quite strong and nobody really enjoys travelling here. The squad depth means that they should be well suited to playing midweek and weekend games in the first half of the year. The more I write here the more I think I am underestimating them again with an 11th place finish! But just by law of averages they are surely ‘overdue’ an average or poor sort of campaign.

Prediction: 11th

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Haugesund Season Preview 2021

Haugesund Defence

I would imagine Helge Sandvik retains his place as the #1 keeper but the signing of Egil Selvik from Odd should push him for competition. This isn’t an elite goalkeeper lineup by any means but will do a decent enough job. The actual Haugesund back four when at full strength is very good. Mikkel Desler is one of the more underrated players in the Eliteserien when in actual fact he’s probably one of the best right backs in the entire league! Alexandre Stolas is a strong left back and also highly dangerous from set pieces. The centre back duo of Benjamin Hansen and Fredrik Pallesen Knudsen is also very formidable. Haugesund only have Ulrik Fredriksen as backup though in the CB area, otherwise they are going to be calling up youngsters. They do have good cover options for the fullback positions at least. Guys like Pedersen, Nilsen & Sandberg can all fill in there if needed. Haugesund aren’t really known for having tough defensive midfielders, although Bruno Leite is a good deep playmaker and probably their best man in the middle. If Haugesund can avoid injuries then they will be more than capable defensively but lack of depth could be an Achilles heel, especially with a hectic schedule.

Key players - Mikkel Desler (RB), Benjamin Hansen (CB)

Haugesund Offense

FKH weren’t exactly the most free scoring team last season. Kristoffer Velde led their scoring charts with 8 goals and also led them in assists with the same number. Velde is a key man for Haugesund because he gives them the X Factor weapon and something different. When in the mood he is really hard to play against, although must work on improving his consistency. Niklas Sandberg scored 7 goals last term but most of those came from the penalty spot, from which he is usually extremely reliable. Of course, Haugesund will be massively aided by having Ibrahima Wadji for the whole season in 2021. He only featured in 20 fixtures last year due his doping ban and is a really good physical sort of complete forward who can finish well. It’s in the offensive areas that Haugessund have made some of their few signings this season. Alioune N’Dour looks an interesting prospect from OBOS side Sogndal and can feature on either wing, whilst Sondre Liseth from Mjondalen looks a sensible safe addition. The versatile Liseth probably deserves to play in a better team and he could thrive in this environment. Haugesund might miss the leadership of Christian Grindheim who has retired but his actual output on the pitch wasn’t what it once was. The offense of this team could be underrated and they have depth with the likes of Ammitzboll & Therkildsen who give them options. Kevin Krygard could also start in central midfield and it is that part of the field which is hardest to predict in terms of lineup. I think inconsistency and perhaps too much of a defensive mindset will sometimes be their downfall but Haugesund might be a pleasant surprise at times in attack.

Key players - Kristoffer Velde (LW), Ibrahima Wadji (ATT)

Coaching, other factors & conclusion

Jostein Grindhaug is in his 2nd spell at Haugesund. He was in charge for 6 year between 2009-15 and the good news is that he’s averaging more points per game during this latest stint, which now stretches into a third campaign. Grindhaug is a no-frills sort of manager who doesn’t mess around and keeps things simple. He kind of stays under the radar which suits both him and the club quite well. Haugesund finished 7th and 9th in the last couple of years and I see something similar again. The squad might lack depth in some areas but there’s enough quality for them to avoid a relegation battle. I feel like this is a team which might need some fresh impetus soon otherwise they might become stale, but for now they seem in a perfectly acceptable place. Should injuries affect them defensively though they could potentially get into trouble. The other problem might be a willingness to be too negative sometimes. The natural strength of this team is when it defends well, utilises set pieces and counter attacks with vigour. Their home record has only been mediocre at best in the last couple of years and I’m not entirely sure that their grass and often dodgy weather conditions always suits them. Haugesund can be literally anything on the day and will produce a few shocks - both good and bad. Ultimately though it should be a safe midtable campaign overall.

Prediction: 10th

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Sarpsborg Season Preview 2021

Sarpsborg Defence

There seems to be a new goalkeeper at Sarpsborg every year and they welcome back ex player Anders Kirstiansen who should be reliable. However, I think it’s a blow to lose David Mitov Nilsen who was mighty impressive at times last season and saved them on a number of occasions. Probably the main strength of this Sarpsborg team is the defence. They play 3 at the back and there are tons of solid CB options like Dyrestam, Odegaard, Naess & Utvik. Jorgen Horn is also an option but will miss half the year as he continues to recover from his ACL injury. Sarpsborg have signed Ben Karamoko from Haugesund, a big lad who adds some more muscle at the back. Joachim Thomassen is one of the best genuine left wing backs in the league and the right wing back spot has been reinforced by adding Eirik Wichne from relegated side Start. Sulayman Bojang is also an option at right wing back, or Dyrestam if they want a more solid option. Sarpsborg don’t really have many out and out defensive midfielders and most of their men in the middle are either playmakers or box to box runners.  Nicolai Naess sometimes operates at DMID  but he's not a natural there IMO. This is a solid looking defence though and when they operate with five at the back can be difficult to break down. Having 3 or even sometimes 4 centre backs in the same team makes them lethal both attacking and defending set pieces too.

Key players - Joachim Thomassen (LWB), Magnar Odegaard (CB)

Sarpsborg Offense

Some people forget this, but Sarpsborg were actually one of the lowest scoring teams in 2020, hitting the back of the net on just 33 occasions. They were quite toothless at times and all too often fired blanks. Only two players scored more than 4 goals - Mos & Ole Jorgen Halvorsen. Sarpsborg have tried to rectify that problem by signing a bunch of new players in attacking areas. Kristian Opseth will probably be the first choice striker and he’s a proven scorer at this level if given the service. They have added some speedsters, including ex player Rashad Muhammed. Sarpsborg have some interesting creative midfielders in the form of Anton Saletros & Jonathan Lindseth, whilst Mohamed Ofkir can be an impact player. Sometimes the Sarpsborg 3-4-3 or 4-5-1 system doesn’t help matters in that they create less opportunities compared to some other teams. I also have a feeling that there are many too many players battling it out for certain spots. Competition for places is great but at some stage there needs to be an element of consistency. I look at a lot of the midfield and attacking spots and you can’t really nail many down as guaranteed first choice starters. I like that Sarpsborg have tried to do something about their lack of goals by bringing in new options. But due to the tactics and way they operate it’s not a guarantee they score more goals this season.

Key players - Kristian Opseth (striker), Jonathan Lindseth (midfield)

Coaching, other factors & conclusion

Mickael Stahre led Sarpsborg to a 12th placed finish in his first season in charge. They started badly but then for the most part were fairly comfortably clear of relegation. It was a poor finish to the campaign though, failing to win any of their last 10 games and limping over the line. Stahre is unusual for the Eliteserien in that he’s one of the few coaches who employs a 3 at the back system. In some fixtures this can create positive matchups for him, but on the flip side it can sometimes leave Sarpsborg exposed as well. I find this team perhaps the hardest to predict out of anyone. I think for the most part they will be solid defensively but could potentially lack goals, I’m not sure. They could finish anywhere between something like 7th or 14th and literally could be anything on the day. My gut feeling is that the Stahre project here will blow up and fail but it’s just a question of when. I could easily be proven wrong but I think he’s too negatively minded to ultimately succeed in the Eliteserien. For those who like something tactically different then Sarpsborg will be a good watch but I suspect quite a lot of their fixtures will be low scoring and fairly boring. I expect them to have too much and avoid a relegation battle. But should some sort of malaise set in and the goals really dry up then who knows, they could land in trouble.

Prediction: 12th

Meatmansoccer predicted best XI and formation