Elfsborg arrive to Norrkoping after their very disappointing encounter in the previous round at home against Hammarby which finished in a 1-1 tie, perhaps a bit undeserved for the visitors considering the chances in Elfsborgs favour. Norrkoping on the other hand have remained solid despite some issues with injuries on key players and are coming home strength after their victory on the road against Halmstad. This can also be described as a battle between two artificial teams. Both teams are comfortable on the turf but less confident when they play versus opponents whose stadiums have natural grass. It might sound just like a small detail but it is a big difference, in particular for these teams. The fact that this match is played on artificial turf means that we have good chances to see the best side of each team.
Norrkoping began their season with an acceptable draw versus Orebro who are seen as one of the biggest dark horses this year, and in that sense it was a positive result for Norrkoping. Recently, they won comfortably against Halmstad who are considered a bottom team with a leaky defense so it was not too surprising after all. Surprising or not – victories means confidence, and that will be vital to keep in mind for the clash with Elfsborg considering Norrkoping will be tested for real for the first time this season in this encounter. Coach Janne Andersson is a decent coach, but he received awful news early on the season when the new star signing Nicklas Barkroth was announced long term injured. He was supposed to carry the team to a solid position but this will have to wait, and in the interim a lot of responsibility will be on striker Emir Kujovic to deliver goals. So far, Norrkoping have over performed and 4 points after only two matches is more than acceptable.
Injury wise there are a couple of squad players out who are yet to feature this season, but the only one worth mentioning is striker/winger Nicklas Barkroth (1/0) who will be out for a significant time.
Elfsborg will stand on the opposing side and are mentioned as title candidates every season but always seem to stumble towards the end. However, the season is fresh and the performances have been strong so far despite a misleading result recently. Due to the miscount in the last match, the urge for revenge is huge and Norrkoping might become victims for that in this clash. Elfsborg are actually by far the best team on artificial turf in the league, and if they reach the quality they showed in the previous match against Hammarby with a big possession game and attacking mentality, this can get ugly if the efficiency is on the normal standard.
The offensive trio of Lundevall, Claesson and Hedlund need to get the balls on their feet to feed striker Per Frick or Lasse Nilsson as they are hard working attacking players who can create chaos in the Norrkoping defense. Although, Elfsborg have bad memories from Norrkoping based on the last season where they lost 4-2 on this stadium, so there are many reasons for Elfsborg to seek a strong performance. The visitors likes to keep possession and play on the ground for the most part, and another factor is their physique which makes them keep the same intensity throughout the entire game and it gets tiring for the opposing sides. The weakness for Elfsborg is despite dominating in majority of their matches, if the first goal does not come in their favor, they tend to get frustrated and lose the momentum a bit. Another slump here will be costly and perhaps question the shape of the team
For the visitors, they do not have any significant injury worries except newly signed midfielder Emir Bajrami who is yet to feature.
Norrkoping have proven they can play well against average sides. The question is how they handle a top team in need of points? When Elfsborg is on the attacking mood it requires a perfect defensive performance from the entire team, and Norrkoping are not the typical defensive structured team. The hosts will not sit back and wait either, and they will try to feed Emir Kujovic with as many passes as possible and hopefully squeeze in a counter attack. This is top versus bottom in many ways, and over 90 minutes I can not overlook the need of points for Elfsborg, and we might see a 60% possession advantage for the visitors at least – and the odds just look tempting to take in such as situation.
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