By Eivind Aarre and Jan Juhlin
The Norwegian and Swedish league titles will be decided on Saturday in a dramatic series of matches.
Vålerenga IF could deny Rosenborg BK a world record-equalling 13 consecutive national titles if they achieve a better result on Saturday than their rivals from Trondheim. The two sides go into the final round of Norwegian Premier Division matches level on 45 points and with an identical goal difference, though Rosenborg have scored eleven more and hold first place.
The champions face Norwegian Cup finalists SFK Lyn at home, while Vålerenga have an apparently easier game against Stabæk IF, though the visitors need a win to try and avoid relegation. Rosenborg have endured an unprecedented run of four defeats in five games that has cost coach Ola By Rise his job, and this game will be the 43-year-old's last league fixture in charge.
By Rise said: "This will be a very special match, for the team and for me as a person. The reasons are slightly different, but it all boils down to that this season has been a disappointment. But we are still in a position where we can finish as champions."
Rosenborg attacker Øyvind Storflor added:. "Our performances have been very uneven and our usual autumn form has not materialised," he said. "
It is absolutely unthinkable that Vålerenga will pip us to the gold."
Meanwhile, Vålerenga coach Kjetil Rekdal said: "This is a very close race, and I think the team that manages to keep a cool head will win. Rosenborg are still in the driving seat since we have to get a better result than them, but we are up to the challenge."
At the other end of the table, Sogndal IL are already relegated, while FK Bodø/Glimt, Molde FK and Viking FK are battling with Stabæk to avoid the one remaining automatic demotion berth, as well as a possible play-off for finishing third bottom. Molde welceom Bodø/Glimt in a classic relegation six-pointer that could see the defeated side lose their top flight status.
In Sweden, Malmö FF and Halmstads BK go into the last round of matches level on points, with Halmstad holding the upper hand with a superior goal difference. The leaders receive third-placed IFK Göteborg, and coach Jan Andersson is aware of the danger that the 17-time Allsvenskan winners pose. "We have got the upper hand at the moment," he said, "but I am sure that Göteborg will try to spoil our party."
'It will be tough'
Meanwhile, Malmö entertain mid-table side IF Elfsborg. The pre-season favourites all but ended Göteborg's title hopes on Monday, but know they must beat Elfsborg and hope for a positive result at the Örjans Vall. "We know it will be tough," coach Tom Prahl admitted.
Elfsborg top scorer Marcus Rosenborg, on a season loan from Malmö, will play and any addition to his 14 goals this season could deny his permanent employers the title. Behind the leading duo, Göteborg will finish third and their place in next season's UEFA Cup now rests on the Swedish Cup final against Djurgårdens IF on 6 November.
At the foot of the table, AIK Solna joined Trelleborgs FF as the second club to be relegated after a 3-0 loss to Örgryte IS on Sunday. Örgryte remain in danger though, and they must beat nearest rivals GIF Sundsvall to avoid facing a play-off - which the visitors will enter if they lose.
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