AC Milan will be looking to avoid an upset on Thursday night when they play FK Bodo/Glimt in the Europa League third qualifying round.
The Norwegian side arrive at San Siro as relative unknowns to those who aren’t ardent fans of European football, but a quick glance at the Eliteserien table shows just how impressive they have been in 2020.
After finishing second last year, they are set to win the title at a canter this time around as they are 16 points clear of second-placed Molde with 12 games remaining.
They have been compared to Atalanta having scored 65 times in 18 games – already one more than they did in all of 2019 – at a remarkable average of 3.6 goals per game.
We spoke to Eliteserien analyst Ben Wells about just what Milan can expect from Thursday’s opponents…
What were your initial reactions upon seeing that Bodo/Glimt had drawn AC Milan?
Ben: I was personally very happy with the draw. I think the feeling in Bodo was generally mixed. On one hand this is one of the biggest games the club has ever played in and an opportunity to test themselves against genuinely world class players, but on the other hand many Glimt fans would probably have preferred their side to get an easier passage to the group stage.
Is this up there with the biggest games in the club’s history?
Ben: 100%. You could argue that this is the biggest European game in the club’s history hands down though I am sure an older Glimt fan would correct me on that! Glimt have played Inter before – a long while ago in the 70’s – and lost heavily but I think this game is probably more important as you could argue this is the best Glimt side of all time, and this match represents a great test of their genuine ability.
Bodo/Glimt have had a fantastic start to the season domestically and look like coasting to the title, what has been the foundation of that success?
Ben: Glimt are one of the best trained teams in Norway and by that I mean they work extremely hard on and off the field to maintain high levels of performance every week. In a condensed 2020 season, they have been relentless and whilst other sides have had to rotate key players due to the intense schedule, Glimt have been able to field their best XI most weeks so far.
Alongside this, they have a crop of brilliant young players all playing to extraordinary levels. Manager Kjetil Knutsen has them playing relentless attacking football and with the quality of players at the club right now, other teams just cannot compete.
Which players should we be looking out for?
Ben: There’s a number of players to look out for and I am fairly sure that this Glimt team could be taken apart at the end of the season as bigger clubs come in for their key players. But, Philip Zinckernagel (RW) has 13 goals & 13 assists in just 18 matches whilst over on the left hand side 20 year old Jens Petter Hauge has 14 goals & 8 assists in 17 games. They will be the men looking to hurt Glimt up front but aside from them, midfielders Patrick Berg & Ulrik Saltnes are two extremely important players for Glimt.
— MilanData📊 (@acmilandata) September 23, 2020
Is this sort of a ‘free shot’ for the Norwegian side, allowing the players to play without pressure?
Ben: I don’t think it is, personally. I would be fairly confident that the Glimt management will be wanting and expecting to win this game. They may be the underdogs but they are also in the best form in the clubs’ history and to go into this game with the attitude that they are just ‘happy to be there’ would be doing a disservice to the amazing season they are having. Glimt are in Milan to compete, that is for sure.
What kind of a game are you expecting? And what would you say are the chances of the away side progressing?
Ben: I am expecting (and hoping for) a quality attacking football match. I expect there will be goals aplenty and would be disappointed if not! Glimt certainly will not change they way they have played this season and I expect Milan will also be looking to kill the tie off early if possible.
Finally, a score prediction…
Ben: I obviously hope Glimt will win but in reality I would still fully expect Milan to end up victorious here. 3-1 to Milan would be my prediction but I will of course be hoping for the opposite of that result!