Celtic’s path to the Champions League has them up against a familiar foe in the second round of qualifying.
Brendan Rodgers’ side beat Rosenborg on their way to qualifying for the group stages last season and they’ve been drawn together again, starting with the first leg in Glasgow on Wednesday.
It’s a strong test for the Scottish Premiership champions, who are looking to make the competition proper for the third season in a row – when the sides met last summer they were only separated by a single goal across the two legs.
Rosenborg are currently second in the Norwegian Eliteserien (the league runs from March to November, so they’re mid-season). They’re just two points behind leaders Brann though, who are enjoying an impressive year having finished fifth last season.
British eyes will likely be on former Arsenal forward Nicklas Bendtner, but he’s not the Norwegian champions’ only goal threat.
Bendtner has scored four in the league this season, but Rosenborg’s top-scorer so far is Alexander Søderlund with six in nine appearances.
Trouble in Trondheim
However, Rosenborg are in something of a crisis at the moment.
The day after beating Icelandic side Valur to reach the second round of qualifying, and Celtic, manager Kåre Ingebrigtsen was sacked, with academy director Rini Coolen taking over in his place.
“It is a surprise for everyone, me as well,” Coolen said. “I was told of the situation and have been asked to take over for the next couple of months.”
It was, above all, a surprise to the players, and one that they weren’t happy with.
“It’s not about myself or the new coaches,” Coolen said last week, speaking about clear-the-air talks he would hold before his first training session. “The players have a problem with changing the old coach – and they’re entitled to say so.
“But now the situation is as it is and I’m 100 per cent sure they will accept the situation from Sunday onwards.”
Celtic will be hoping that they do not.
What it means for Celtic
On the one hand, a potentially disorganised and discontent team could give the Scottish side a big advantage going into Wednesday’s game. But on the other hand it could make the Norwegians a surprise package.
“They’ve made some changes but the system is very much the same,” Rodgers said last week. “They play 4-3-3, like to pass the ball.”
He’s clearly done his homework on Rosenborg, but all this opposition scouting could be for nothing if Coolen decides to play a different style from his predecessor.
Even so, Celtic have enough quality to deal with anything the Norwegians throw at them.
Moussa Dembélé appears to be on his way back to fitness after a tight hamstring in Celtic’s second leg against Armenian side Alashkert, who found the Frenchman and compatriot Odsonne Edouard far too hot to handle.
Scott Sinclair, James Forrest, and Tom Rogic also impressed last season, while Leigh Griffiths always chipped in when he was given some game-time.
The defence is slightly more of a problem. A combination of factors means that Celtic will have to field a makeshift and inexperienced back-line. Rodgers expects that the Norwegian side will sit back and defend, but this could still leave the defence exposed on the break if Rosenborg counter-attack.
They’ve only conceded 11 so far in the league, but only made it past Valur 3-2 on aggregate, thanks to a stoppage time penalty in the second leg.
The short period of time that Coolen has had with the squad might also persuade him to set Rosenborg up in a more defensive way than they usually would, making them even hard to break down.
With so much disruption happening in the opposing camp, Celtic will just need to focus on playing their own game.