DAVID SMITH - Friday, August 12, 2011
Chris Rolfe and Aalborg have their eye on a jump into the Superliga's top two spots when they host Odense and Conor O'Brien will look to help SønderjyskE earn a result on their trip to Clarence Goodson's Brøndby.
Aalborg BK - Odense BK
Chris Rolfe will be in Aalborg's starting lineup on Saturday afternoon when they try to continue their unbeaten run and move past visiting Odense.
The misery of last season seems to be behind Rolfe and his teammates, with an undefeated record through their first four games putting them in a three-way tie of teams trailing just behind league leaders Copenhagen.
After they drew even with one of those two other teams - league surprise package AC Horsens - last weekend in a high-scoring 3-3 contest, they will face the other in a game which could be an early indicator of who will hold the upper hand in the race for Denmark's second Champions League place.
Odense are on a roll to start off their 2010-11 campaign, going undefeated through six games in both Superliga and Champions League play. They showed their mettle in coming back from an early deficit to Brøndby last weekend, and will look to keep the momentum rolling heading into next week's midweek clash with Spaniards Villarreal in the final stage of Champions League qualifying.
Holding the currently smoking-hot Odense attack in check will be at the top of Aalborg head coach Kent Nielsen's to-do list, as last season's Superliga runners-up have rattled off an impressive four goals in their last three outings, including a memorable 4-3 win on the road at Panathinaikos which moved them to the cusp of the Champions League group stage.
While far from dominant on either side of the ball, Aalborg have done all that has been asked of them through their first four games, and will try to extend their home winning streak to three games.
Aside from their big win in Greece, Odense have earned draws in their two league games away from their home stadium, but are hoping that the rare midweek of rest for their non-international players will give them the extra push to take all three points.
Aalborg are without American forward Marcus Tracy, who is in the final stages of recovering from knee problems, along with midfielders Kasper Kusk and Denis Dedovic, and defender Kasper Bøgelund, all due to injury.
Odense have no notable absences from their major contributors, with bench players Daniel Krog, Oliver Larsen, Jacob Schoop and Timmi Johansen all missing the trip with injuries.
Brøndby IF - SønderjyskE
After making his debut as a second-half substitute in last weekend's win, Conor O'Brien will hope to expand his role in SønderjyskE's midfield on Sunday when they visit Clarence Goodson and struggling Brøndby IF.
Widely expected to have a tough season, SønderjyskE have been one of the league's toughest teams in the last few weeks, shaking off an opening loss to Copenhagen to take seven points from their last three games.
Their most recent win came in the form of a dominant 3-1 victory over Aarhus last weekend, in a game which also saw O'Brien finally take the field for the first time with his new team.
Heading in the opposite direction are their hosts Brøndby, who are showing the effects of losing many important players during the summer transfer window.
In their last four games, the lone bright spot was a bittersweet one, a 4-2 win over SV Ried just over one week ago, which in reality felt more like a loss since it wasn't enough to see them past the Austrian team in Europa League qualifying.
Otherwise, they have lost their last two league games by a combined 6-2 scoreline, and are looking increasingly likely to follow in the footsteps of Aalborg and Aarhus as this season's traditionally strong Superliga team destined for a seasonlong struggle near the bottom of the standings.
Brøndby are likely without perpetually-injured forward Martin Bernburg and defender Max von Schlebrügge due to a minor knee problem. In addition, defender Anders Randrup must sit after picking up a pair of yellow cards in last week's loss.
The only question mark for SønderjyskE is forward Tommy Bechmann, who missed last weekend's game with a knee injury.
FC Nordsjaelland - HB Køge
Michael Parkhurst and Brad Rusin will square off in the battle of American center backs on Sunday, as struggling Nordsjaelland host last-place Køge.
The season has been a rough one for Køge in their return to the Superliga, with a leaky defense being the main culprit in a run of four straight losses. They have yet to hold any opponent to less than three goals, and were bludgeoned by Copenhagen to the tune of a 4-2 loss last weekend.
If there is any hope for the team, it lies on their attack, which has been responsible for a respectable five goals through four games, although they will need to find a way to cut down on their horrendous goals-against record.
As luck would have it, they are going up against the league's worst attack on Sunday, heading to the northern suburb of Copenhagen to visit a Nordsjaelland team which has averaged less than one goal per game.
The Wild Tigers finally notched their first win of the season in their lat game, coming from behind to beat Silkeborg and barely pulling free of the relegation zone.
Parkhurst has settled down in the team's central defense after spending much of last season filling in at right back and on rare occasions in the midfield, and has formed a partnership with Andreas Bjelland that new head coach Kasper Hjulmand hopes will form the fulcrum of the defense through the fall.
Hjulmand must still wait for the debut of new left back Patrick Mtiliga, as the former Malaga man is still working his way up to match fitness. Forward Mads Thomsen and defender Jores Okore have been training with the team and could be back in the squad after missing time with injury.
Køge will be crippled in the back with two of the team's starting defenders out of the game; left back Andreas Sørensen will be out for at least a month with a broken foot and Rusin's partner in central defense Stefan Hansen is serving the second of a two-game red card suspension.
Babajide Ogunbiyi is out for the long haul with a knee injury and was not in uniform for Viborg's season opening 4-0 home thrashing of FC Hjørring on Friday evening.