Vålerenga v Mjøndalen

Vålerenga finished a disappointing 6th last season and perhaps the most dismal aspect was their measly points tally of just 42. They were way off the European places in a year which promised some progress towards the top 4 or 5. So far, the Ronny Deila project here in Oslo hasn’t really worked. At times, they have played some great stuff and you feel like they are making progress. But there is never any consistency with VIF and I think it will be a tough challenge for them to propel into the top four in 2019. They should however have more than enough to hold their own in something like 5th spot and be on the fringes of the European places. Players such as Herolind Shala and Matthias Vilhjalmsson have been signed to bolster their attack, whilst Mexican international of over 50 caps, Efrain Juarez will bolster the right back position.

The first match for Vålerenga puts them against newly promoted Mjøndalen, who are back in the league for the first time since 2015. On that occasion they conceded a massive 69 goals, although in recent times seem to have tightened up considerably. They had the best defensive record in the OBOS Ligaen last season but this will now be a massive step up to the top tier. Goalscoring was a slight issue for Mjøndalen in 2018 and their highest scorer netted just 5 times! They have signed Fredrik Brustad and Sondre Liseth to help them in the attacking department, although they might still lean on old legend Olivier Occéan, who at 37 years old might not have much left in the tank.

Both teams head into this opening day contest with relatively few injury concerns. The biggest problem Mjøndalen had was in the goalkeeping department where Sosha Makani is out until mid season and Georges Bokwe suffered a double fracture in one of his legs a few weeks ago. Julian Faye Lund has been signed on loan from Rosenborg, a bright young talent but someone who could be raw. Of course the possibility of a promotion ‘bounce’ from Mjøndalen can’t be ruled out but this really should be a match that Vålerenga  win. If they want to be up there challenging this season then this isn’t the sort of fixture Ronny Deila’s men can afford to drop points in. I like the idea of taking Valerenga on a -0.75 Asian handicap here, the gulf in class should be too much.

Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: Vålerenga -0.75 at 1.850

Sarpsborg v Molde

This match is a real heavyweight fixture between two teams who are expected to challenge and be up there in the table this year. Sarpsborg could only languish to 8th spot in 2018, although they were massively distracted by an amazing Europa League run which nearly saw them qualify from the group stage. That would’ve been a fantastic story for a club which has made great strides under manager Geir Bakke. Plenty of new players have arrived this winter but all eyes are on young striker orgen Strand Larsen, who has scored 20 pre season goals. Will he be able to produce when it really matters is now the question. Key players for Sarpsborg will be goalkeeper Aleksandr Vasyutin and midfielder Kristoffer Zachariassen.

Molde have some real belief that they can finally end Rosenborg’s recent domination of the Eliteserien. They have lost star striker Erling Braut Haland to Salzburg, but got a decent fee for him and look to have invested well in this squad. Key additions are Ohi Omoijuanfo from Staabek and Eirik Ulland Andersen from Stromsgodset. Molde are locked and loaded in all areas of the field and have great depth. Whether they can get out of the blocks quickly remains to be seen. Molde have been handed a fairly tricky start to the season, having to face Sarpsborg, Vålerenga & Rosenborg in their first 6 games. Erling Moe is the current caretaker manager whilst Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is at Man United.

I rate both teams and I actually think that Molde definitely have a legitimate chance of winning the title this season. However, I expect them to grow into the role and get better as 2019 progresses. This is a very tough match for them to open up with and will be one of their 2-3 hardest of the whole campaign. Sarpsborg are going to be a dangerous side this season and even a dark horse for the title themselves. On the opening day of the 2018 campaign they beat a formidable Rosenborg side here 1-0 and I wouldn’t be surprised if they did the same again this time around. Geir Bakke has an excellent recent record managing against Molde and is unbeaten in his last 7 matches against them. That suggests he maybe has the wood on MFK, which could play into some minds. There is every chance this could be a draw but taking Sarpsborg on a DNB Asian Handicap offers some value in my option. They deserve to be a -0.25 favourite here and at worst should be able to push on this line.

Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: Sarpsborg DNB at 2.020

Preview by: @meatmansoccer.

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