Possible Norwegian test for Motherwell in Europa League
Norwegian cup holders Aalesunds FK lie in wait for the winner of Motherwell's game with Breidablik, which Craig Brown's side lead 1-0 after the first leg.
Motherwell’s reward should they overcome Breidablik in the Europa League will be a trip to Norway to take on Aalesunds FK in the third qualifying round. Last season’s Norwegian Cup winners, Aalesund qualified for Europe the first time in their history by defeating rivals Molde 5-4 on penalties following a 2-2 draw.
Having finished 13th in the 16-team Tippeligaen last season, they currently occupy fourth spot midway through the current campaign. Nine points behind Rosenborg in top spot, Aalesund have won four of their eight home games, losing just one. On the road, they have won four and lost four.
Their manager is Kjetil Rekdal, who has been in charge since 2008. Rekdal was a regular in Norway’s national team during his playing career, playing against Scotland in the 1998 World Cup. The midfielder played for Borussia Monchengladbach, Rennes and Hertha Berlin, before returning to Germany for an ill-fated spell in charge of FC Kaiserslautern.
Should Craig Brown’s team prevail and earn their trip to Norway, they will be met by a probably full ground. Aalesund’s frequently have crowds around the 10,000 mark, a far cry from their previous average of around 1,000.
Their home is the 11,000-seater Color Line Stadium in Alesund, which was built in 2005. The ground features the only artificial surface in Norway’s top flight and is also home to Fortuna Alesund, who play in the Norwegian Women’s Premier League.
MOTHERWELL IN THE EUROPA LEAGUE
Aalesund’s most famous son is Roma’s former Liverpool left back John Arne Riise. The player started his career with his hometown club before heading to Monaco in 1998 but a statue outside their stadium is modelled on, although not dedicated to, the player.
Riise’s brother Bjorn Helge, who plays for Fulham, spent three seasons in Aalesund’s first team before moving to Standard Liege. He subsequently returned to Norway to play for Lillestrom before the Cottagers came calling in 2009.
If Motherwell make it through, they will be away from home first on Thursday July 29. The return leg at Fir Park would be played a week later on August 5.