DAVID SMITH - Friday, December 4, 2009
The first half of the Danish Superliga season comes to a close, as both Aarhus and Aalborg will try to fight their way back towards European contention with the three-month winter break looming.
SønderjyskE - Aalborg BK
Marcus Tracy will be looking for his fourth straight start up top for Aalborg on Saturday as the team looks to deal with a streaky SønderjyskE squad.
Aalborg have pulled a pair of draws in their last two outings and will be trying to end the fall term on a high note after spending the previous four months seeing their fortunes rise and fall.
Even though their inability to lock down wins - with a single three-pointer in their last nine league contests - has taken them from first to seventh place over the last two months, the relative inconsistency of the rest of the league has still left them with the possibility to jump as high as fourth should they pull out a win.
Tracy has seen his stock rise in recent weeks, netting the winning goal against Copenhagen several weeks ago in the team's only league win since mid-September, and spending the two games since in the starting lineup.
With forward Daniel Fredheim Holm out injured, he will likely see time on the field again. In addition to the Norwegian forward, coach Magnus Pehrsson is also without midfielder Dennis Marshall.
Sønderjyske's fortunes this season have been attached to a bungee cord, regularly bouncing between wins and losses, but ultimately left hanging just above a fatal crash. While seemingly safe from relegation with an 11-point margin to the drop zone, their 19 total points through 17 games makes them the current worst of the rest, just a touch behind Nordsjælland and Midtjylland.
The team will be without midfielder Morten Bertolt and forward Nicolaj Agger, who are both sidelined for extended periods of time with long-term injuries.
FC Nordsjælland - FC Midtjylland
Michal Parkhurst is expected to once again get the starting nod as right back for Nordsjælland on Sunday when they seek to overtake their visitors Midtjylland in the standings.
The Wild Tigers have patched together a decent run as of late, winning three of their last five league games. They did suffer a minor setback last weekend in giving up a late goal in their 1-0 defeat to Silkeborg, but will be looking to bounce back against a similarly hot Midtjylland team who have only lost once in their last seven league games.
Parkhurst has spent the last few games adjusting well to his new role as the team's right back, with the defense conceding less than one goal per game over this stretch.
Nordsjælland coach Morgen Wieghorst will return to his team's sidelines after handing the reigns to assistant Kasper Hjulmand due to an attack of the flu last weekend.
He could be without midfielder Patrice Bernier and keeper Nenad Novakovic, as both missed last week's loss with slight injuries.
Wolves coach Allan Kuhn has a full squad to choose from, however central defender Danny Califf will not take part in the game.
AGF Aarhus - Esbjerg fB
Capping off a breakout half-season, Benny Feilhaber is expected to take up his usual spot in right midfield for Aarhus and Jeremiah White will also likely see the field as they look to improved upon their sixth-place standing against Esbjerg on Monday evening.
Aarhus finally got the monkey off their back with their win over Brøndby last weekend, ending a run of three successive draws and overall without tasting victory.
Residing in sixth place, they are in the middle of a quartet of teams in the middle of the pack, with a paltry two points separating fourth-place Brøndby from seventh-positioned Aalborg.
A win over Esbjerg could push them as high as fourth heading into the break, and Erik Rassmussen's men will be hopeful of getting the result as their opponents have shown shown their cracks in the last month, winning only one of their last four league games to fall well behind the blistering pace they had set through September and October.
Rassmussen will likely see the return of forward Dioh Williams, who missed last weekend's game with a lingering hamstring problem, but could still be without a number of players in his back line.
Defenders Mark Howard, Ulrik Lindkvist and midfielder Niels Kristensen are all still gone with long-term injuries, while defenders Anders Nielsen and Anders Kure also missed action last weekend due to knocks.
Esbjerg coach Ove Pedersen is expected to face his former wards with a full squad.