One small step for eleven men; one giant leap for Molde FK

Eirik AndersenPhoto: Uwe Anspach / Pool photo via AP
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On Thursday, March 11, 2021, at 9:00 PM Norwegian time, Molde FK will venture into a new frontier. For the first time in the club’s history, they will compete in the Uefa Europa League: Round of 16. This marks a historic benchmark, and the eyes of Norway’s footballing fraternity will undoubtedly be firmly fixed come Thursday evening.

The road to Granada

Molde will be the visitors to Estadio Nuevo Los Carmenes, in the opening stanza of this two-legged tie. Facing Granada CF, they will travel to Southern Spain’s Andalusia region. Located therein is the City of Granada, a historic location, replete with beautiful Medieval architecture, influenced heavily by Moorish occupation.

Molde find themselves in this position following a textbook rope-a-dope performance against German side Hoffenheim in the previous round. Having conceded no less than three away goals in their home fixture, Molde were able to withstand a relentless Blitzkrieg and prevail on German soil, sealing a 2-0 away victory, inspired by heroic performances, particularly from Andreas Linde and Eirik Ulland Andersen.

Linde for his part produced a string of invaluable saves, including denying Munas Dabbur on multiple occasions, in a display reminiscent of England’s Gordon Banks vs Brazil in the 1970 World Cup. Andersen was every bit as potent at the opposite end of the pitch; displaying the archetypal killer instinct, and taking home a brace on the evening, and 3 goals across the tie.

Domestic comparison

With Molde awaiting the commencement of the Norwegian Eliteserien 2021, scheduled for April 5, there may be concerns of a lack of match-sharpness, with sporadic fixtures in the Europa League as the current source of the club’s competitive fixtures.

However, perhaps the extra time off of the pitch has been a welcome respite for the club’s collective legs, and if any evidence in support of this was needed, it was surely provided with Molde’s victory over Hoffenheim.

Granada, for their part, are currently active in Spain’s La Liga, sitting 10th in the table. This is a respectable position, considering the depth of quality in the league. Like all of Europe’s premier competitions, there are no easy fixtures, and Granada will surely hope that this will bring them a competitive edge on Thursday.

A perennial threat in attack, Granada have this year claimed multiple goals against Athletico Madrid and Barcelona, who are positioned 1st and 2nd in La Liga, respectively, as well as against Napoli, who are 6th in Italy’s Serie A. Molde will have to endeavor to replicate the defensive mettle that was on display in the previous round once again.

Erling Moe. Photo: Svein Ove Ekornesvåg / NTB

Unchanged line-up

Whilst Granada are undergoing the usual headaches that accompany a busy season with several parallel competitions, Erling Moe will have the freedom to select from his entire squad, minus only Ola Brynhildsen, who is unavailable through injury.

With starting line-ups yet to be confirmed, it must be expected that Moe continues with the same side that was able to stun Hoffenheim in the Round of 32. Especially important will be the two talismans of that evening, Andersen and Linde, as well as Magnus Wolff Eikrem, who has managed to contribute 3 goals and 4 assists in the competition thus far – the most by a Norwegian in a single season of the Europa League.

Predicitions: head vs heart

It’s academic to speculate that the Norwegians will be in for a tough night. It is generally accepted that the broad quality of Spanish football, as compared to Norwegian will ordinarily render the Spaniards as favorites. This, combined with home advantage and match-sharpness from an ongoing season stacks the odds firmly against Erling Moe’s 11.

This sentiment appears to be felt broadly. At the time of writing, an ongoing poll on livescore.com suggests that Molde have a pessimistic 19% chance of victory, a victory that would mark only their second against Spanish competition in Europe, building on a 1-0 home victory over Sevilla in the 2015-16 Europa League season.

However, if the previous round of the competition has taught us anything, it is that with a structure, determination, and a fortified mindset, underdogs will always have a chance to rattle the status quo. Molde FK have the opportunity tomorrow evening to take center stage, as representatives of the Norwegian footballing community and continue to add to an already historic tapestry, being woven in full view of the footballing world.

Molde’s run so far will no doubt help to inspire a host of young, would-be footballers, demonstrating that it is possible to achieve amazing feats, no matter the odds.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Norway Today unless specifically stated.

Source: #Norway Today

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