The hosts have been a shadow of their former selves this season. In 2015 they were brilliant, even pushing Rosenborg close to the title under the management of Bob Bradley. Eventually they finished third but considering the resources available it was a tremendous achievement. This term, things have been much more complicated and they are currently situated on just 10 points having lost a whopping 9/13 games, more than any other team in the Tippeligaen. Things just haven’t worked for coach Billy McKinlay and reports were he was close to the sack. Only a convincing 5-0 win against Start just before the summer break enabled him to keep hold of his job. Something clearly isn’t right with the club though and in midweek they suffered a really poor 0-0 draw away against Welsh side Connah’s Quay in the Europa League. They were 1.35 favourites in that fixture and should be beating them easily any day of the week. It sums up Stabaek’s problems. To add insult to injury Indian GK Singh Sandhu injured himself in that contest, just as he had asserted himself as the club’s no1 GK. Midfielder Issah is suspended.
The promoted outfit have had a solid season so far and look on track to avoid relegation. Eirik Bakke’s men have only won three matches but a collection of draws (6), more than any other side in the league has enabled them to pick up 15 points. Sogndal are naturally a defensive side but can get sucked into some higher scoring matches, in both of their last two fixtures the final outcome was a 2-2 draw. They also beat Aalesund 4-1 on the road. But typically the key to their success is keeping things tight at the back and being efficient in front of goal. Sogndal are nothing special but they are quite a good all round team who are difficult to beat and often keep themselves in matches. It’s especially hard to break them down once they are ahead.
I personally think Stabaek are overrated in this fixture. They are still living off the reputation they had last year, but the simple fact is things have changed a lot. On paper, the squad is still quite decent but they simply aren’t working very well as a unit. The message that McKinley is trying to get across is being lost in translation. His tactics don’t impress me and I don’t think all of the players are behind him. There’s a general feeling that a few more bad results and he’ll get sacked, which is probably what some guys actually want. Stabaek fielded a strong side on Thursday night and couldn’t even beat a mediocre Welsh league outfit! Off a short rest and under pressure, I have to say the edge is given to Sogndal. The visitors will come with a strong gameplan and will be hard to penetrate. Stabaek will probably do something stupid at the back to concede at least one goal in a pathetic way. My prediction is Sogndal getting the three points, or a draw at worst.
It will come as no surprise that I’m going to be backing Sogndal here. The only question is exactly what asian line to actually take them on. +0.5 is generally available around the 1.80 mark, whilst +0.25 can be grabbed at 2.12. If Sogndal were more of an ‘all or nothing’ side then I’d take the latter option, but because they draw so many games then I think +0.5 is a better line. That way, if another of their fixtures did end all square then the bet fully wins. I’m never a great fan of backing away sides but in this instance I really feel like Sogndal are terrific value. Stabaek just aren’t a side that impress me very much at the moment. The goal line is set between 2.5 and 2.25 and there’s temptation to back the overs. Sogndal are a really hard team to break down sometimes though and Stabaek have been goal-shy this season. So I’ll leave that market alone and simply stick with the visitors on a +0.5.
Recommended bet: Sogndal +0.5 @ 1.80 (minimum odds acceptable 1.65)
Alternative line: Sogndal +0.25 (minimum odds acceptable 1.90)