A turnaround in the second leg of their UEFA Cup tie against Club Brugge KV would be the icing on the cake for SK Brann after a great season in Norway.
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A dramatic turnaround in the second leg of their tie against Club Brugge KV would be the icing on the cake for SK Brann after a great season in Norway.
"Gullet ska hem" – "the gold is coming home" – has been the war cry of Brann fans this season, as they look forward to celebrating their first Norwegian league success since 1963. Seven points clear at the top of the table with four games to go, a big party is in the offing in Bergen, with the city sure to come to a standstill for several days once the crown is safely secured.
Simply the best
Mons Ivar Mjelde's side have been ahead of the rest in Norway all season, the arrivals of Azar Karadas and Hassan El Fakiri during the summer transforming a very good squad into a title-winning one. Should Viking FK slip up at Tromsø IL this weekend, a win at home against FC Lyn Oslo would see Brann take the crown in front of their own fans with three games to spare.
Even the most cynical of supporters ran out of reasons to doubt Brann's title hopes at the weekend as they triumphed 5-1 at Lillestrøm SK, overwhelming the fourth-placed side although Mjelde is keeping his emotions in check. "We take it one match at a time," he said. "This team's strength is its ability to start from scratch every game."
All of this domestic success stands in stark contrast to Brann's performances in Europe in recent seasons. Decent squads have come unstuck against the likes of FK Sūduva and Åtvidabergs IF, and while they thrashed Carmarthen Town AFC and overcame Sūduva to reach the first round this season, a 1-0 home defeat against Club Brugge seems to have left their hopes of progress looking slender.
"We felt that we didn't deserve to lose the first leg, and hope to do better in Belgium," said Mjelde. "Reaching the group stage of the UEFA Cup was one of our goals for the season." A European disappointment may well be on the horizon, but their first domestic title in over 40 years would represent a substantial consolation.