Rosenborg BK coach Jan Jönsson is eager for second qualifying round action as the UEFA Champions League was "a real motivation" during his side's early season struggles in Norway.
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Having won the 2010 Norwegian title – their 22nd – without losing a game, Rosenborg BK have crashed back to earth this year and as they embark on another UEFA Champions League bid, Jan Jönsson's side have reason for caution.
Veterans of 11 group stage campaigns, Rosenborg may not have been quite so wary of Icelandic champions Breidablik in previous seasons. The 2011 campaign has been a sharp break from the norm for the Trondheim outfit, though, and coach Jönsson said: "We will not underestimate them. The Champions League adds spice to our season and was a real motivation for the squad when we were struggling at the start of the season."
During those spring travails the team sank as low as 15th in the 16-club table; they lost four of their first seven fixtures, a remarkable amount given their only defeat in the previous two league campaigns came against IK Start with the 2009 title in the bag. Unbeaten in seven matches now, Jönsson took some comfort, saying: "We have had some good results in the last few weeks, which has helped us build confidence."
That was in short supply not so long ago with Rosenborg seemingly dealing with 100 problems at once. Former Stabæk IL coach Jönsson, 51, was trying to settle in after replacing club legend Nils Arne Eggen, who had taken charge for the latter half of the 2010 season when predecessor Erik Hamrén left to lead Sweden's national side.
The new trainer also had to contend with a much-depleted squad. Key men Steffen Iversen (Crystal Palace FC), Anthony Annan (FC Schalke 04), Kris Stadsgaard (Málaga CF) and Vadim Demidov (Real Sociedad de Fútbol) all left over the winter, with Rosenborg unable to replace like for like. Moreover, star striker Rade Prica has struggled with niggling injuries – but has still managed eight goals in 12 Tippeligaen games.
However, improving results suggest Rosenborg are beginning to recover. With the team now tenth, forward Mushanga Bakenga and winger Jonas Svensson are showing youthful promise while 20-year-old Simen Wangberg and Jim Larsen – a winter recruit from Silkeborg IF – are looking solid in central defence. "A new partnership will take time to gel, but I feel we are on the right track," said Wangberg. "We understand each other a bit better with each game."