Rosenborg BK sporting director Rune Bratseth's knowledge of German football could be the difference between his side remaining in the UEFA Champions League or dropping into the UEFA Cup after tonight's match at FC Schalke 04, where the Norwegian club need just a point to reach the last 16.
Success in Germany
The former Norway international moved from Rosenborg to Werder Bremen in 1986 and went on to spend eight seasons in Germany, winning two league titles and two cups and twice being nominated as the Bundesliga's best foreign player. The trip to Gelsenkirchen has brought back happy memories for the man who tasted European glory in the 1992 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup final with Bremen, and he feels his current club have nothing to lose at the Arena AufSchalke.
'My second home'
"It is nice to come back to Germany as it is my second home but now I am looking forward to this important game," said the 46-year-old. "We have already achieved our goals as we are sure to be playing in Europe next year – that was very important for us. This game is more important for our opponents."
The UEFA Champions League success has been some consolation for a disappointing fifth-placed finish in Norway. Despite taking them to the verge of qualification from Group B, coach Knut Tørum paid for domestic failings and was replaced by Trond Henriksen. Bratseth believes the side are already reaping the dividends of the change. "In the league this season we have not done well at all and that is why we had to change coach," he said.
"Henriksen has been working intensively with the side, particularly as our season has ended in Norway," he added. "We have changed the way we have played in the UEFA Champions League. Normally we play with two wingers and one striker in the league, but for the European games we have been playing with two strikers and one offensive midfield player. The players seem to like that way of playing and the formation."
Rosenborg will be hoping their players show the spirit that Bratseth did in his illustrious career to obtain the point they require to clinch second spot, but the sporting director admits it is a tough task. "German teams are very organised and they usually win the important matches," he warned. "But we just have to concentrate on Schalke and how they are playing. They have lots of good players but not big stars – they are a team. We are well prepared and I just hope our break for the end of the season does not set us back too much – it is a factor though. I hope the key players are playing in the white of Rosenborg tonight and not the blue of Schalke."
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