DAVID SMITH - Friday, August 6, 2010
Michael Parkhurst and Nordsjælland turn their eyes back to Superligaen action after tough loss in Portugal while Danish Division One action kicks off with Aarhus looking to fight their way back into the top flight.
FC Nordsjælland - Brøndby IF
Following Thursday's hard-fought Europa League loss to Sporing which eliminated them from the competition, Michael Parkhurst and the Wild Tigers will look to continue their hot domestic start when they host Brøndby on Sunday.
While few would have given them a chance to come out of Sporting's Estádio José Alvalade with the necessary win to advance in the competition, Parkhurst and his teammates gave the hosts some nervous moments by pulling to within a goal of victory in the late going, before finally conceding the backbreaker in the final moments.
They can nevertheless take heart from their encouraging display as they shift focus back to their league campaign, which has them currently in a lofty second place after three rounds of games.
Last weekend's 2-0 win over Randers showed Morten Wieghorst's team at their very best, combining a tight defensive unit with their free-flowing attack in a dominating display in which the scoreline could have even been considered flattering to the losers.
In their opponents Brøndby, the Wild Tigers are facing a team which has also put on a series of solid, if unspectacular performances. Tied with Nordsjælland on six points, their Copenhagen-area neighbors have reeled off four straight wins, split between a pair of league victories and their successful passage through Europa League third-round qualifying.
Wieghorst should have a full squad available for the game, which could be an important factor for a team which could still be weary from their 1500-mile-plus trip back home just days before.
Brøndby could be without defender Thomas Rasmussen, midfielder Michael Krohn-Dehli and forward Martin Bernburg after all were left out of the team's squad for Thursday's Europa League contest with minor injuries.
Vejle BK - AGF Aarhus
Benny Feilhaber and Aarhus begin their first season back in the Danish second-tier - with an eye on promotion - when they visit Vejle on Sunday.
A terrible spring doomed Feilhaber and his teammates to relegation from the Superligaen, at the end of last season, leaving them to navigate the waters of the First Division for at least one season.
While it was expected that two of the team's most valuable assets - Feilhaber and fellow midfielder Jakob Poulsen - would be departing for greener pastures during the summer, a dearth of acceptable offers for the pair for either has the team currently with the strongest squad in the division.
Feilhaber will have a busy week as he has also been called up by Bob Bradley for the USA's friendly game against Brazil in New Jersey two days after the league opener, which will almost certainly keep him out of Aarhus' midweek Danish Cup game one day later.
Having originally eyed their own promotion back to the Superligaen at the beginning of the previous season, Vejle faltered down the stretch going winless in their final 13 league games to finish a troublesome three points above the relegation spots.
Both teams are healthy and sporting full squads out of their pre-season preparations.
FC Vestsjælland - FC Roskilde
After finishing strong to survive the previous season in the First Division, FC Roskilde and central defender Jamil Fearrington begin the season under a new coach with hopes of making headway into the upper half of the standings, beginning with Sunday's contest at Vestsjælland.
The team made several major changes during the offseason, most notably replacing longtime coach Martin Jungsgaard with another previous coach from more than a decade before, Carsten Broe.
The team also just added veteran keeper Lasse Sørensen earlier in the week to alleviate their goalkeeping crisis, and have somehow managed to hang onto their most dangerous offensive weapon, 13-goal-scorer Jeppe Kjær.
Vestsjælland looked to be possible promotion contenders at the mid-point of last season, but fell off slightly during the spring to finish 12 points back in fifth place.
Neither team is reporting any injuries prior to the match.
Kolding FC - Viborg FF
Babajijde Ogunbiyi and Viborg will look to continue their back-line dominance from last season, but will hope to find a bit more offensive spark in the new term as they push for the top flight, starting on Sunday when they visit pre-season relegation favorites Kolding.
Viborg proved by and large to be one of the premier defensive units in the First Division during the spring half of the season, however their anemic attack - ranked as second-worst in the league - kept them from being able to put together a serious run for a top-two finish.
If their most recent pre-season performance, a commanding 4-1 win over fellow First Division competitors Skive, is any indication, they could be well on their way to promotion at season's end.
Kolding can count themselves lucky to still remain in the division after a poor previous term left them barely clear of falling into the doldrums of the Second Division, and can yet again be expected to have a tough time to maintain their status come season's end.
Both teams will have full squads available for the game.
Both Chris Rolfe and Marcus Tracy are in the recovery stage from injuries and will miss Aalborg's encounter with bottom-feeders Silkeborg on Saturday.