Despite losing their coach, Rosenborg are the favourites to retain their Tippeligaen crown

The expansion of the Elite division last season to 16 teams means a record-breaking early start again, and the domestic league football kicks off on March ???. The long preparation period has been used to full effect and all the clubs have been on Spanish soil in La Manga to take part in friendly tournaments.

Swedish coach Erik Hamrén succeeded in taking Rosenborg back to the league throne in his first full season in Trondheim. The club’s disappointment was huge when he decided to accept the job as national manager of Sweden soon afterwards. He stayed on on a temporary basis as the club is looking for his replacement.

As reigning champions Rosenborg will again be favourites for the title. They have let fringe players like Dario Zahora, Alexander Lund Hansen (to Odense), Juska Savolainen (to newcomers Haugesund), Espen Johnsen and Roy Miller leave to reduce costs but will certainly miss midfielder Marek Sapara, who is pursuing his career in Turkey with Ankaragucu.

Fredrik Winsnes has been brought back to the club as Sapara’s replacement. Winsnes has had successful spells with Aalborg (Denmark) and Stromsgodset since he left in 2006.

Morten Moldskred was signed from Tromso to add pace and finishing touch up front. He has been a regular goalscorer and will also provide efficient service from wide positions for Steffen Iversen and Rade Prica.

Goalkeeper Daniel Orlund was signed from AIK (Sweden) to compete with Rune Jarstein.

Last season Stabaek did not manage to reproduce the form that won them the league title in 2008 last season but came strongly towards the end to finish 3rd. Coach Janne Jonsson stays on and was happy to see Veigar Pal Gunnarson return from a dismal stay in French football with Nancy. Central defender Kristian F. Onstad has joined from Brann.

Stabaek will miss influential players like Fredrik Berglund, Daigo Kobayashi, Pontus Segerstrom and Thomas Rogne, who have all left and their squad seems weaker this season. However, a talent like Mikkel Diskerud should blossom.

Molde finished silver medallists last season and are expected to fight for medals again. It remains to be seen how much they will lose Pape Mame Diouf, who signed for Manchester Utd.

It was a blow to lose the Cup Final to neighbours Alesund at the close of last season, but Kjell Jonevret has added necomers Magne Simonsen (Lyn), Emil Johansson (Hammarby) and Baye Djiby (Lokomotiv Moscow).

Odd Grenland were the surprise of last season, finishing fourth. Head coach Dag Fagermo has a fine blend of experienced and talented players and Magnus Myklebust (Lillestrom) and Jone Samuelsen (Viking) are the only newcomers. Jacob Sorensen and Kenneth Dokken have left. It will be difficult for the Skien club to emulate last season.

Brann (5th) and Valerenga (7th) are both determined to improve on last season. Brann do not have the economic strength to buy new top players but made a shrewd move to bring back Erik Mjelde, a goalscoring midfielder, who has enjoyed success with Sandefjord.

The central defence might be Brann’s Achilles heel as both Kristian Onstad and Kristjan Sigurdsson have left. Youngster Yaw Ihle Amankwah might be given a chance to partner veteran Olafur Bjarnson. Brann will have to hope for an injury free season for veteran Eirik Bakke and midfielders Petter Vaagan Moen and Jan Gunnar Solli. The striker partnership of Erik Huseklepp and Diego Guastavino should provide the necessary goals for Brann to fight for medals again.

Valerenga has replaced goalkeeper Troy Perkins with Lars Hirschfeld (Energie Cottbus) but coach Martin Andresen more or less relies on last season’s squad. He himself has hung up his boots and will concentrate on the coaching only.

Viking (10th) and Lillestrom (11th) are two other clubs with solid traditions expected to do better than last season. Lillestrom coach Henning Berg has brought Tarik Elyounoussi on loan from Herenveen and also signed Erling Knudtzon (Lyn) and Anthony Ujah (Nigeria).

Former national coach Aage Hareide has taken over Viking and has brought in Patrik Ingelsten from Herenveen and goalkeeper Boy Waterman on loan from AZ Alkmar. Whether they will be good enough replacements for Jone Samuelsen, Thomas Pereira, Peter Ijeh and Thomas Myhre remains to be seen.

Start, Tromso and Aalesund had average seasons in 2009 although Aalesund finished on a high with the domestic Cup. Kjetil Rekdal will build on the same group of players but have recruited Magnus Sylling Olsen from Kongsvinger.

Tromso have sold Tore Reginiussen (to Schalke) and Morten Moldskred (to Rosenborg) and coach Per Hogmo will have to work hard with his players to finish in the top half. Australian defender Jade Bronson North might prove to be a good signing.

Coach Knut Torum did remarkably well with Start last season and will work with the same squad in 2010. Mats Stokkelien  showed his talent last year and there are numerous youngsters coming through the ranks of the club.

Stromsgodset managed to stay up last season and are expected to fight the drop again. Young goal keeper Lars Stubhaug has joined from Everton and Jo Inge Berget should form an efficient partnership with Marcus Pedersen up front to provide the goals for the Drammen club.

Newcomers Haugesund, Honefoss and Kongsvinger will find it hard to survive at the top flight. Honefoss have never been so high up before in the divisions before and coach Ole Bjorn Sundgot has made some shrewd signings: Paul Obiefule (Lyn), Kristjan Sigurdsson (Brann) and Rune Bolseth (Sogndal).

Haugesund and Kongsvinger must take most of their points on home soil and are lucky to have enthusiastic fans behind them.

Season starts: March 13, 2010.
Season ends: November 7, 2010.