Aberdeen face a tough test in the second round of Europa League qualifying this week, travelling to Norway to face Viking Stavanger.
Derek McInnes’ men progressed to this round following a convincing 6-0 success over NSI Runavík in qualifying round one. That victory was the first in a run of wins that has extended to five on the spin after Aberdeen edged past Kilmarnock 1-0 at the weekend.
It could be a case of the unstoppable force meets the immovable object in Norway. Whilst Viking have scored 15 in their last five, the Dons have conceded once. Norwegian football expert and journalist Ben Wells gives us an insight into how the game could pan out.
“They’ve ramped it up a bit in the last few games,” Wells told NTOF of Viking. “They got off to a mixed bag after a really impressive 2019 season. They were under a lot of pressure early on but the last few weeks have turned it around a little bit.
“They beat Molde who are one of the strongest teams in the league and Kristiansund 5-3, which was a crazy game. A lot of fans were hoping for a top six finish ideally but there squad has been depleted.
“There was a lot of chopping and changing but in the last month or so they’ve finally settled on their best XI. You can see results have really started to improve. They look very good, setting up in a very attacking 4-3-3.
“But they have just lost their left-back Adrian Pereira and that’s a big loss for them. They are coming into this with some very exciting form. But it looks as if it’s going to be a very close game from what I’ve seen of Aberdeen.
“Viking are comfortably a top eight team in Norway out of 16. Home advantage is massive and playing on the artificial pitch will be beneficial for Viking. In terms of strength, Aberdeen slightly edge it at the moment as players like Lewis Ferguson and Ross McCrorie could walk into the Viking team.”
Viking have two dangerous attackers in particular. Attacking duo Zymer Bytyqi and Veton Berisha are in great form, Bytyqi scoring five times and assisting on five occasions this term, Berisha scoring 10 goals with the same amount of assists as his teammate.
As good as Aberdeen have been defensively, this will be a big test for them. Shutting these two out of the game via the left flank could be the key to success for the Reds in Norway.
“Berisha is one of their most expensive signings of all time I believe,” Wells explained. “He signed from Brann where he wasn’t great for around £500,000. But like Viking as a whole he started the season pretty poorly.
“He was shifted to the wing but now he’s settled in an attacking position and starting to score a lot of goals. He’s been going at a rate of one a game for the last four or five games.
“Zymer Bytqi is a fantastic player, I really rate him highly. He made his debut aged 15 for another local team. This is the season where he’s shown his true colours, he scored two goals the other day.
“He’s got a number of assists and has been linked with Scottish clubs as well I believe. I do think his level could go higher than that. He’s the real man to watch, he’s the man Aberdeen are going to have to stop to control Viking.
“A lot of Viking’s good play comes down his left-hand side.”