DAVID SMITH - Thursday, August 4, 2011
Clarence Goodson will be back in Brøndby's defense as they try to overturn a two-goal deficit against Ried while Clint Dempsey could take the field for Fulham as they try to finish off RNK Split at the Cottage.
Brøndby IF - SV Ried (agg. 0-2)
After missing the team's weekend blowout loss due to sickness, Clarence Goodson will be back in the lineup to captain Brøndby on Thursday night for their all-or-nothing game at home against SV Ried.
Brøndby let themselves fall into a tough situation in their first leg game in Austria, giving up a pair of goals to set up a crucial return leg in their home stadium.
Should they overturn the deficit to advance to the final play-off round of Europa League qualification, it would go a long way to redeem the squad to the home crowd, who were witness to an utterly embarrassing 4-1 blowout at the hands of visiting AC Horsens in league play over the weekend.
Goodson missed that particular travesty with an illness, and his presence in the back was sorely missed as the defense was left in shambles.
There will be extra pressure on the American's shoulders, as he was bestowed the honor of being named team captain during the week in place of the aged and oft-injured Max von Schlebrügge.
Brøndby need at least a two goal victory to have any chance of going through, and they will need to be tight defensively, since allowing an away goal to their opponents would likely end their hopes.
They will be missing midfielder Mike Jensen for up to two months after he fractured his tibia in their weekend loss. Also absent is forward Martin Bernburg, who is still recovering from an ankle issue.
Ried are reporting no absences.
FC Fulham - RNK Split (agg. 0-0)
Clint Dempsey could make his Fulham return after his post-Gold Cup break on Thursday night as the Cottagers try to get the job done at home against Croatian team RNK Split.
Fulham did what they needed in the away leg last Thursday, holding their hosts scoreless to put themselves in the position of only needing a win at home to progress to the next round.
While an away goal would have helped their cause substantially, they will surely have a heavy advantage at the Cottage, where they went undefeated in their last European campaign two years ago.
They are facing a Split team which is making their first-ever foray into Europe, and will be confident of coming out victorious in what will be their last real warm-up before Premier League play begins on August 13.
With the team still in pre-season, Fulham coach Martin Jol will have a fully healthy squad to choose from. Split are missing Bojan Golubović after the forward was unable to obtain a visa for the UK.
FK Jablonec - AZ Alkmaar (agg. 0-2)
Jozy Altidore has been included in Alkmaar's traveling squad and could make his debut for the Dutch team when they try to finish the job against Czech team FK Jablonec.
Altidore missed the home leg for AZ last week as he both recovered from an injury suffered during the Gold Cup and got acclimatized to his new teammates. His presence was hardly needed, as his team were 2-0 winners thanks to a pair of second-half goals, giving the team a clear path to the final play-off round.
They will simply need to avoid a collapse in Jablonec to go through, and an away goal by Gertjan Verbeek's squad would practically assure their advancement.
AZ are reporting no absences to their team, while Jablonec will be without injured Marek Jarolím and flu-stricken Pavel Eliáš in the midfield.