DAVID SMITH - Friday, March 18, 2011
Benny Feilhaber and Babajide Ogunbiyi should be back on the field as the Danish 1. Division kicks off, with Aarhus continue their promotion run and Viborg try to steer clear of relegation threat.
AGF Aarhus - Hobro IK
Benny Feilhaber should be in the starting lineup for Aarhus on Friday when they host Hobro IK, as the team look to get the spring started off on the right now.
Aarhus were with little doubt the top team in the Danish 1. Division throughout the fall, dropping points only on four occasions and building a five-point lead atop the standings as they steer for a quick return to the Superligaen.
The team had a strong winter break, most notably holding onto star midfielder Feilhaber despite some expectations he would leave for greener pastures, and picking up a pair of Danish veterans in midfielder Hjalte Nørregaard and winger Søren Berg.
The former spent most of his career at Danish powerhouse FC Copenhagen, captaining the team in their 2009-10 championship season, while the 34 year-old Berg has proven himself as an effective goalscoring threat most recently at Randers.
Unfortunately for Aarhus Nørregaard will not see the field in the current term as he ruptured his Achilles tendon while the team was training in Turkey and is set to miss at least six months for recovery.
The first meeting between these two teams in September was one of the few disappointments for Aarhus in the fall, as they blew a halftime lead coming from a Feilhaber spot kick, to settle for a draw. However with the reward of promotion clearly in their sights, a second slip-up against the league's 11th-placed team is an unlikely scenario in front of the home crowd.
In addition to Nørregaard, Aarhus head coach Peter Sørensen will be missing long-term absentee Jens Gjesing, as well as midfielder Martin Jorgensen, who is recovering from a groin problem.
Hobro are currently reporting no injuries or suspensions heading into the game.
Viborg FF - Roskilde BK
Babajide Ogunbiyi and Viborg will hope that their return from the long winter break will see them make some much-needed improvements to their play as they try to put an end to their unexpected struggles against relegation.
Heading into the 2010-11 season, the Greens had been expected to challenge for the league's second non-Aarhus promotion spot, however they plummeted far short of expectations. Through their first 16 games, they notched up an embarrassing four wins, and entered the break only one point out of the drop zone.
Despite their tough run, Ogunbiyi established himself in the team's starting lineup as a solid rock in the back as well as an occasional goalscoring threat on set pieces, reportedly garnering interest from teams outside the division.
The most notable change to Viborg over the previous three months was the release of head coach Lars Søndergaard after the disappointing fall, leaving former players Steffen Højer and Søren Frederiksen to jointly take the reigns as caretakers.
The coaches had faced a minor injury crisis in their defense in the final weeks of the break, however have starting outside backs Sune Kiilerich and Timmi Johansen available for the spring opener.
Roskilde have been somewhat of a positive surprise in the league, hanging on in the middle of the standings after barely scraping through in the previous season.
The most positive outcome of their off-season was a two-year extension to the contract of star striker Jeppe Kjær whose contract was set to end in the summer. They will be without Andreas Bak for up to two months after the midfielder underwent surgery for a knee injury, but otherwise have a full squad available for the game.
Chris Rolfe was included on Aalborg's bench for their 1-0 home loss to Copenhagen last weekend, however is still awaiting for his first appearance of the season after a long absence for a severe hamstring injury, which could come on Sunday for the team's trip to Lyngby BK.
Michael Parkhurst was left on the bench for Nordsjaelland's 2-2 draw at Midtjylland last weekend, and will hope to be back in contention on Sunday when they host relegation-threatened Esbjerg fB.
Clarence Goodson is out for several weeks recovering from a broken toe and will miss Brøndby's Sunday-afternoon derby match-up at local rivals FC Copenhagen.