Previewing Celtic's Champions League Qualifying Opponent Rosenborg
If you are interested in learning more about Rosenborg or any other club in Eliteserien, check out our sister site KroneBall. Featuring statistical analysis for Eliteserien, Christian and I dive head first into the high thrills world of stats and Norwegian football. If you enjoy Modern Fitba, you will definitely enjoy what KroneBall has to offer.
Europa League Group Stage Update: When Celtic and Rosenborg met in the Champions League group stages, it seemed that the Bhoys would be continuing to ascend after completing the double treble the previous season, while Rosenborg were in disaray after their manager left the club days before the Celtic match and the club in the unfamiliar position of being second in Eliteserien. Of course since then, Celtic have had the Dedryk Boyata situation, have sold Moussa Dembele, and have dropped points to Hearts and St. Mirren in the league.
Meanwhile in Trondheim, Rosenborg stabilized after being eliminated from Champions League qualifying by Celtic. The club qualified for the Europa League by defeating Cork City and Shkendija along the way. They have also improved their form domestically, taking back the top spot in Eliteserien from Brann. Their recent good form has been highlighted by their 3-2 victory at Valerenga last week, with an injury time winner to earn the victory over former Celtic manager Ronny Deila in a week that saw striker Nicklas Bendtner among the headlines for breaking a cab driver’s jaw.
So what has changed for RBK? Well besides Bendtner changing the jawline of that cab driver, interim manager Rini Coolen has helped them improve a bit in the back, using their depth to get contributions on attack from a wide variety of sources, and being effective at set-pieces. In the five league matches since their Champions League exit, Rosenborg have held their Eliteserien opponents to an xG of less than 1 three times, though the other two matches they conceded 2.70 and 1.43 xG respectively, so there is some still frailty in the back.
In the 5 league matches since they met Celtic in July, Rosenborg have gotten goals from 8 different players. With Bendtner’s future up in the air, RBK have had to rely on numerous players for goals and a few different players have stepped up in that time. One of those players that has helped pick up the slack in attack in Swedish winger Jonathan Levi.
Since Celtic and Rosenborg first met, Levi has been one of RBK’s best players. He has scored two goals and 3 assists since the beginning of the summer, averaging 0.21 goals per 90 minutes and 0.32 assists per 90 this season. These totals seem sustainable looking at his underlying metrics, as he has averaged 0.22 xG per 90 and 0.35 xA per 90 this season. I highlighted Pal Andre Helland as the attacking threat for Celtic to need to contain in the RBK midfield the first go around, but the Norwegian winger has had injuries issues since the July meeting. Levi has done well when replacing Helland and Celtic need to make sure they know where the Swede is on Thursday.
Originally Publish 22 July, 2018
When the second round draw for Champions League qualifying was made, there was excitement at Modern Fitba headquarters. Since Christian Wulff and I also run a Norwegian football stats website, Celtic getting a potential match up with Norwegian champions Rosenborg for the second year in a row would have worked out well. Our excitement was soon dampened when Rosenborg lost the first leg of their first qualifier Valur 1-0 in Iceland.
Of course, Rosenborg did get through Valur by the skin of their teeth after a injury time penalty by Nicklas Bendtner. However, their struggles against the Icelandic champions are a good representation of the issues that the Trondheim club have had so far in their Eliteserien campaign. Many of the same issues that have caused them to struggle against Valur in qualifying are why Rosenborg sit in second place in the Eliteserien table, two points behind Brann. Injuries, some defensive frailties, and a certain Danish striker's play have played a large role in the position the reigning Norwegian champs find themselves in. These issues also cost manager Kare Ingebrigtsen his job the day after the second leg of the Valur tie.
The club has closed the gap between themselves and Brann (and have finally moved ahead of their Trondheim neighbors Ranheim, who are a part time club, for second). There are weaknesses to this Rosenborg squad, but there are certainly plenty of strengths that Brendan Rodgers and Celtic need to be wary of. Will the new Rosenborg manager be able to utilize those strengths and limit those weaknesses against Celtic? Or will the Trondheim club be in disarray as they travel to Glasgow next week?
30% of the xG that Rosenborg have conceded have come from key passes in the middle of the pitch, which is the highest in Eliteserien. 30 of those key passes conceded have originated from the same area, which is in the bottom half of the league.
Furthermore, in the heat map above, we see most of the shots Rosenborg concede come from "danger zone" in the box. While they have only allowed the 4th lowest number of danger zone shots in Eliteserien at 50, 40.7% of the total shots they allow come in that danger zone area which is 10th out of 16 clubs in Eliteserien. All but 2 of their goals conceded in league play have been from shots in that danger zone. The Rosenborg back line also sometimes struggles in the air, with 7 of their 10 goals coming from headers. All of these numbers indicate that someone like Moussa Dembele could find success in the middle of the Rosenborg defense.
The player that most people know about on Rosenborg is Danish striker Nicklas Bendtner. Last season, "The Lord" was the top scorer in Eliteserien after scoring 19 goals. Bendtner was fourth in non-penalty xG at 9.77 and 0.36 per 90. This season has seen a drop off from the infamous striker though, with only 4 goals scored through 16 matches. His xG is actually at about the same rate it was last season, at 4.78 and 0.38 per 90 minutes, so could The Lord be in line for a bounce back in goal scoring?
Looking at his conversion rate, we perhaps should have expected this drop off from Bendtner. Last season, Bendter scored on 31.7% of his chances, which we know is higher than normal. This season he has regressed to an average conversion rate at 11.1%. We know conversion rate fluctuates wildly over a season and even a career, but the 30 year old striker returning to earth with his finishing ability could just be the level he is at now.
While Rosenborg have had some holes in the middle of their defense during league play, they likely will not play the same way they normally do at Celtic Park as they do in Eliteserien. In Europe, Ingebrigtsen would typically set up RBK to keep their shape and be tough to break down. This of course is dependent on if anyone is brought in before Wednesday, but you would expect Rosenborg to play like this in Glasgow, looking to frustrate Celtic and counter with the right side of their attack. That right side contains some quality players able to create and cause trouble for the Celtic defense.
On that right side of the Rosenborg squad, you will find Vegar Eggen Hedenstad and Pal Andre Helland. Eggen Hedenstad has been arguably Rosenborg's best player this season (and is the 3rd leading scorer on ya boy's Eliteserien fantasy team). The right back has 6 assists and 0.40 per 90, tied for second in the league. He has an xA total of 4.66 and 0.31 per 90, which is fifth in the league. The 27 year old Norwegian has been successful getting down the right wing and creating good chances for his teammates.
Vegar Eggen Hedenstad also has a talented playmaker in front of him in Pal Andre Helland. The midfielder is just coming back from an injury that has kept him out of the Rosenborg line-up for the few weeks, but it seems like Helland will be healthy at a crucial time for RBK. In his time on the pitch, Helland only has 1 assist or 0.09 per 90. However, when we look at his underlying numbers, we see he's a bit unlucky to not have more assists with an xA of 3.77 or 0.34 per 90. Helland is also a goal threat for RBK, scoring 3 goals with an xG of 2.63 or 0.24 xG per 90.
With play makers like Eggen Hedenstad and Helland, you would expect Rosenborg to focus their attack on the right wing. Indeed that is the case, as 33.9% of their key passes come from the right wing. RBK has the highest total number of key passes (43) in Eliteserien and xG originating from key passes on the right wing (6.64) in Eliteseren. Though they will have to likely get past Kieran Tierney which is no easy feat, the right side of the Rosenborg attack will look to try and lead the break for RBK against Celtic.
While one older Rosenborg striker is perhaps regressing to a level we would expect with his age, another is still scoring plenty of goals for the Trondheim club. Alex Soderlund returned back to the Lerkendal last December and has had a good 2018 Eliteserien campaign, scoring 6 goals or 0.61 goals per 90. Soderlund has not gotten the same playing time as his Danish counterpart, playing about 260 minutes less than Bendtner. Yet, Soderlund has scored 3 more non-penalty goals than the Lord and has a similar xG total at 4.64 and a better xG per 90 at 0.47 compared to Bendtner's 0.38. With a new manager coming in, could the veteran Norwegian striker see more playing time and cause Celtic trouble in their match-up?
As the World Cup took place, there was a lot of discussion about the utilization of set-pieces. While you could debate whether an increase in set piece goals over a short sample is just variance or if there is something tangible that you earn your team an edge, there is a lot of analysis discussing dead ball opportunities. Rosenborg certainly seemed intent on trying to take advantage of these opportunites under Kare Ingebrigtsen. RBK have scored 6 goals from set-pieces in Eliteserien, the highest in the league. They also have the highest xG from set-pieces in the league at 5.10 and the highest percentage of their total xG coming from set-pieces at 19.2%. Much of the Rosenborg attack seems to be dependent on utilitzing set-pieces, something Celtic will need to be aware of.
In Norway, he is known as R.O.N.N.Y., but in Scotland he is known as B.U.R.L.E.Y. Regardless of his name, we can use our football projection model to give us probabilities on the upcoming Rosenborg Celtic Champions League qualifier. At Celtic Park, R.O.N.N.Y./B.U.R.L.E.Y. see Celtic with a 50.29% chance of winning, RBK with a 22.11% chance of winning and a 27.60% chance of it being a draw. At the Lerkendal, Rosenborg have a 34.85% of winning, Celtic a 38.57% of winning, and a 26.58% of a draw. The results with the highest probability of happening in each leg is 1-0 Celtic in Glasgow and 1-1 in Trondheim. This result would see Celtic progress to the next round of qualifying.
Last season when I previewed this fixture, I hopped on my soapbox discussing how both clubs need to embrace any method that can help them identify an inefficiency to help bridge the gap between themselves and clubs in the "big four" leagues and I am going to take this time to do it again. Both Rosenborg and Celtic are clubs that deserve the reverence they receive in their home countries based on their accomplishments on the pitch. They deserve better than having to play 4 qualifiers to try and qualify for the group stages of the Champions League. And yet, here we are. They can only travel the route put in front of them, and to do that they need be setting the trends in new advancements in football, not following them.
Often times when clubs fire a manager, they see a bump in their form. Kare Ingebrigtsen being fired less than a week before Rosenborg meet Celtic in a crucial Champions League qualifier was certainly surprising. There had been murmurs from RBK fans upset with how he was leading the Trondheim club, but even the most disenfranchised RBK supporter could not have expected him to be out the door at this point. Rosenborg have plenty of weapons that can hurt Celtic, but have their own frailties that Celtic can exploit as well.
Despite all the information we have, there is plenty of unknowns heading into this match. Will Rosenborg have another manager in place by Wednesday? Will it be an interim manager or a full time appointment? Will the RBK squad react positively to the firing or will they still struggle? While it's an unfortunate circumstance of modern football that these two historic clubs have to meet in this portion of the competition, it is probably the best circumstances Celtic could have hoped for meeting a club like Rosenborg.
This article was written with the aid of StrataData, which is property of Stratagem Technologies. StrataData powers the StrataBet Sports Trading Platform, in addition to StrataBet Premium Recommendations.