With all four Group I teams on three points, the Scandinavian derby between Sarpsborg and Malmö could prove pivotal.
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With all four teams in UEFA Europa League Group I on three points after two games, Sarpsborg host Malmö in a Scandinavian derby of considerable intrigue and importance.
• The two clubs both recovered from opening away defeats – Sarpsborg at Beşiktaş (1-3), Malmö at Genk (0-2) – to post home wins on matchday two, Sarpsborg overcoming their Belgian opponents 3-1 in Norway and Malmö defeating their Turkish visitors 2-0 in Sweden.
• This is new terrain for both clubs in UEFA competition as Sarpsborg have never faced Swedish opposition and Malmö are taking on a Norwegian club for the first time.
• Formed in 2008, Sarpsborg enjoyed the best season of their short history in 2017, finishing third in the Eliteserien and reaching the final of the Norwegian Cup. The league position secured European involvement for the first time, and they have made the most of the opportunity, progressing all the way from the first qualifying round to the group phase.
• After kicking off their European debut with a 6-0 aggregate win over Iceland's ÍBV, Sarpsborg used the away goals rule to get past Switzerland's St Gallen before overcoming Rijeka of Croatia 2-1 over two legs and then seeing off Maccabi Tel-Aviv in the play-offs (3-1 home, 1-2 away).
• Sarpsborg's five home fixtures in Europe have yielded four wins and a draw, with ten goals scored and three conceded. They have won the last two matches 3-1.
• Swedish champions for a record 20th time in 2017, Malmö began this season's European campaign in the UEFA Champions League first qualifying round. Their bid to reach the group stage of that competition for the third time in five years was halted on the away goals rule by Hungarian champions Vidi in the third qualifying round but they secured an autumn of European participation – as Sweden's sole representatives – by prevailing in another all-Scandinavian affair against Danish title holders Midtjylland in the UEFA Europa League play-offs. Their eight qualifying matches brought four wins and four draws.
• Malmö's only previous UEFA Europa League group stage involvement was in 2011/12, when they opened with a 4-1 defeat at Dutch club AZ Alkmaar and never recovered, finishing bottom of the section with just one point.
• The Swedish club have played ten away games in European group stages and lost the lot, always by a margin of more than one goal, with a total of 36 conceded. The matchday one defeat at Beşiktaş, however, was their first away loss this season following four qualifying matches in which they did not concede to their hosts.
Links and trivia
• Malmö coach Uwe Rösler was a player and coach with Lillestrøm and has also been in charge at fellow Norwegian clubs Viking and Molde.
• Malmö's Andreas Vindheim has represented Norway at youth and Under-21 levels and started his career in Bergen with Brann. Other players from the Swedish side to have played in Norway are Johan Dahlin (Lyn 2006–09), Arnór Ingvi Traustason (Sandnes Ulf 2012) and Bonke Innocent (Lillestrøm 2014–17), while Sarpsborg's Harmeet Singh played for Swedish club Kalmar in 2017.
• This is Malmö's ninth game in the UEFA Europa League, group stage to final – a record for a Swedish club.
• Sarpsborg are one of four clubs who began their successful journey to the UEFA Europa League group stage in the first qualifying round, the others being Apollon Limassol, FC København and Rangers. They are also one of five making their debut this season in the UEFA Europa League proper, along with Akhisar, Dudelange, Jablonec and Spartak Trnava.
• A coaching career spent exclusively in his native Norway peaked for Geir Bakke when the Sarpsborg side he has led since January 2015 finished third in the 2017 Eliteserien to qualify for a first crack at European football and subsequently negotiated four qualifying ties to reach the UEFA Europa League group stage. Prior to joining Sarpsborg he was the assistant to Tor Ole Skullerud as Molde claimed their first Norwegian league and cup double in 2014.
• Born in the former East Germany, Uwe Rösler left his homeland in 1994 to play up front for Manchester City, which he did for four years, thus forming a bond with English football that has brought him back to the country to manage four different lower-league clubs. His coaching career began in Norway, with Lillestrøm, his final club as a player, and in June 2018 he returned to Scandinavia to become the new head coach of reigning Swedish champions Malmö.