DAVID SMITH - Saturday, May 21, 2011
Michael Parkhurst will hope to retain his place Nordsjaelland's starting eleven on Sunday afternoon when they face Midtjylland in a rematch of last year's victorious Danish Cup final.
The Wild Tigers come into the game having won a remarkable 14 straight games in Cup competition since they began their successful run to last year's title, and have arguably had a harder path to Copenhagen this time around in coming up against three straight Superligaen teams in the previous rounds.
They squeezed by Randers on a 1-0 aggregate score over two legs in the semifinal, although Midtjylland had an even tougher time with Esbjerg, eventually going through in a dramatic penalty shootout.
No team has successfully defended their Cup title since before many of the players taking the field for these two youthful teams on Sunday were born, with AGF Aarhus having last won in consecutive years in 1987 and 1988.
Adding more spice to what is already set out to be a testy revenge match, a cat and dog war of words has broken out between the sporting directors of the two clubs.
Nordsjaelland sporting director Allan K. Pedersen made statements to the press on Friday both mocking the empty trophy cabinet of Midtjylland as well as taking a number of snide jabs at the rural area in which the club is situated, and was quickly answered by Midtjylland director Jens Ørgaard, who, amongst other things, referred to the Copenhagen-area based club as snobs and ridiculed what he perceived as a small fanbase.
Regardless of any exchanges happening between the front offices, both teams are hungry to come out ahead at the end; Midtjylland looking to atone for last year's 2-0 overtime loss to the Wild Tigers, and Nordsjaelland trying to once again gain entry into the Europa League after a largely underwhelming league campaign left them nowhere near qualification.
Midtjylland are already guaranteed of European placement based on their third-place league standing, although a Cup win would have the advantage of putting them directly into the playoff round, skipping the earlier qualification games.
In the two meetings between these two teams during the current season, Midtjylland has the upper hand, winning the first game in August by a bawdy 4-0 score, and ending on even terms in mid-March.
The Wild Tigers have momentum on their side heading into the game, winning their last two games, while the Wolves are still reeling from their 5-2 blowout loss to Copenhagen in the midweek.
Nordsjaelland head coach Morten Wieghorst is sweating the fitness of starting midfielders Matti Lund Nielsen and Søren Christensen after both were forced out of their midweek game with injuries. In addition, midfielder Patrice Bernier along with forwards Mads Thomsen and Emil Lyng are all out injured.
Midtjylland are currently reporting no major absences from their available squad for the game.