PREVIEW: WEEKEND NORWEGIAN ACTION
The 2011 Eliteserien kicks off in Norway this weekend with Mikkel Diskerud and Stabaek hosting Lillestrom while newly-promoted Sogndal with goalkeeper Joseph Bendik visit Stromsgodset.
Stabaek - Lillestrom
Mikkel Diskerud and Stabaek open their 2011 Eliteserien season when they welcome in Lillestrom to Telenor Arena this weekend.
Diskerud was a stalwart all last season for the Baerum-based club and should be in Sunday's starting lineup at midfielder for new head coach Jorgen Lennartsson.
Following the match, the US international will depart on a plane to join up with the US national team for next week's friendlies versus Argentina and Paraguay.
Stabaek finished an uncharacteristic 12th last season and will want to start this campaign on the right foot.
A healthy Veigar Páll Gunnarsson should help rekindle an attack last season that sputtered at inopportune times.
The Icelandic forward was injured most of the season but appears to be recovered and ready to return to his goal-scoring ways.
It will also be interesting to see how much playing time young Erik Benjaminsen receives this year at Stabaek.
The San Francisco-born midfielder and Norwegian Under-19 international signed a professional contract late last season but may struggle to see the field this season.
Lillestrom's 2010 season also ended in disappointment. The Canaries reached fifth place by late June only to fall off the pace and end up in 10th come November.
Lillestrom will once again be leaning on Nigerian forward Anthony Ujah to improve off his 2010 goal total of 14. Tunisian midfielder Karim Essediri is one of the best set-up men in all of Norway with nine assists last season.
Both coaches are likely to have full squads available.
Stromsgodset - Sogndal
A new season in a new league awaits Joseph Bendik and Sogndal who travel to play Stromsgodset on Sunday.
Bendik will be the man in net for Sogndal after spending much of the season last year as the backup goalkeeper.
Sogndal's first test is a road contest at Stromsgodset who finished a solid seventh in last year's Eliteserien.
Not much is expected of Sogndal this year which provides ample opportunity to spring an early upset and claim three precious points to start the campaign.
Bendik and the Sogndal defense will have to contend with one of the best playmakers in Norway, Oyvind Storflor, who assisted on nine goals last season.
Neither team is reporting any major injuries at this time.
Josh Gatt and Sean Cunningham will hope to make the gameday roster when Molde visit newly-promoted Sarpsborg on Friday.