While medals are being handed out elsewhere in Europe, the Icelandic season starts on Saturday with Valur Reykjavík favourites to defend their 2007 crown.
The last of the 2008 European campaigns to kick off, the 12-team Icelandic top flight will be contested over 12 rounds, with the final one scheduled for 27 September, making full use of the brief summer. The consensus among the division's captains and coaches, according to a traditional pre-season poll, is that Valur are favourites. "This is more or less what I expected," said coach Willur Thór Thórsson nonchalantly.
Valur have demonstrated their credentials with a 4-1 win against Fram Reykjavík in the pre-season Lengjubikar Cup and a 2-1 victory over FH Hafnarfjördur in the Super Cup. With no significant losses since last term, and with striker Albert Ingason signed from Fylkir, things look promising. "Minor changes in the team make it easier to maintain stability," explained Thórsson. "The players know each other very well which makes our game plan more solid."
FH were second in 2007 to end a run of three straight titles and are considered the second most likely Urvalsdeild champions. Last season's Icelandic Cup winners have seen good players come and go over the winter, but coach Heimir Gudjónsson – who took charge after Ólafur Jóhannesson became Iceland coach – said: "I am pleased with my squad. It is a mix of older players who have won titles and young promising ones, so we are sure to be battling to get the title back."
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