DAVID SMITH - Wednesday, July 28, 2010
Michael Parkhurst and Nordsjælland face a tough visit from Sporting while Daniel Antunez and Inter Turku will try to hold off Belgian team Genk in Thursday evening's Europa League action.
FC Nordsjælland - Sporting CP
Michael Parkhurst should anchor Nordsjælland's central defense on Thursday evening as they play host to Portuguese giants Sporting CP in the first leg of their Europa League third-round qualifying series.
Nordsjælland are still trying to figure out what went wrong in Sunday's embarrassing come-from-ahead defeat to SønderjyskE, and will certainly be on their toes against a formidable Sporting team that boasts the likes of Portugal internationals as Pedro Mendes, Miguel Veloso, Liedson and Maniche.
They could have the slight edge in fitness, already having played a pair of games in the Danish domestic campaign, and are facing a Sporting squad just back from an extended trip stateside for a series of friendly exhibitions.
For their part, Sporting are fresh from winning the Barclay's New York Challenge trophy after putting on a pair of entertaining displays against English teams Tottenham and Manchester City.
While neither team has any major absences due to injury, Sporting are facing the new season without one of their star players of recent years, as promising young midfielder João Moutinho departed the team under contentious circumstances at the beginning of the month for rivals Porto.
Inter Turku - Genk
Daniel Antunez is expected to start in midfield for FC Inter as the Finnish Cup holders host Belgian team Genk in the home leg of their Europa League clash.
Inter are coming off a strong 2-0 home victory over FF Jaro during the weekend, but are otherwise just past the midway point of an up-and-down season which has seen them jump in and out of the win column each successive game since late-May.
California native Antunez has been a fixture in Inter's starting lineup since signing prior to the 2010 season, playing an important role both in the team's back line as well as in midfield.
Thursday's game in Inter's Veritas Stadion will be his first taste of European action, however many of his teammates will remember their short, ill-fated Champions League campaign of last season where they failed to pass comparative Moldovian minnows Sheriff in an embarrassing 2-0 aggregate loss.
While coming into the round as underdogs to their Belgian counterparts, they will hope to spring a surprise to reach the final playoff before the group stage.
Their cause will be helped with the return of Finnish international Fimo Turuholm to the lineup after he made a successful return from a knee injury in the weekend's league victory. The team could still be without backup forward Daniel Osinachin after he sat out over the weekend while recovering from injury.
Genk are gearing up for the start of their Belgian domestic campaign, and are coming off a narrow 1-0 loss to Turkish team Trabzonspor in their final pre-season warmup.
The only question marks for their lineup are forward Marvin Ogunjimi and Brazilian defender João Carlos, after both missed Sunday's loss, the former with a hip injury and the latter due to a groin problem.
On-loan midfielder Freddy Adu has not been included in Aris' roster for their Europa League encounter with Polish team Jagiellonia Białystok.