DAVID SMITH - Thursday, July 22, 2010
Mikkel Diskerud and Stabaek will have to be on their toes should they hope to survive their test in Belarus while Nate Weiss and Jelgava will try to overturn a one-goal disadvantage in front of their home crowd.
Dnepr Mogilev - StabŠk (agg. 2 - 2)
Mikkel Diskerud should get the starting nod in Stabaek's central midfield as they look to get past hosts Dnepr Mogilev on Thursday night.
A frustrating performance by the Norwegians in last week's first leg left the series knotted at two goals apiece, giving their Belarusian opponents a slight edge thanks to away goals heading into the pivotal second game.
Barring an offensive explosion by both teams, Stabaek will need to come away from Denpr's Spartak Stadion with a win, which should be possible as long as they can make do without a number of injured players.
Strikers Torstein Anderson Aase and Daniel Nannskog, midfielders Johan Andersson and Tor Marius Gromstad, along with defender Morten Skj°nskberg should not participate after missing the weekend's 2-2 draw with Brann.
Additionally, starting midfielder Espen Hoff did not make the trip east as his girlfriend is expecting to give birth. The silver lining is the inclusion of team captain Pontus Farenrud in the squad, after the Swedish international was forced to sit out the weekend's league game.
Should Diskerud and his teammates come out victorious on Thursday night, they will almost certainly face Czech team FC BanÝk Ostrava, who hold a hefty 6-0 edge over FC WIT Georgia.
Jelgava - Molde (agg. 0 - 1)
Nate Weiss will hope to be recovered from a slight injury and back on the sidelines when Jelgava try to bounce back from last week's one-goal defeat and oust Molde on Thursday.
By holding their Norwegian opponents to a single-goal victory last week, the Latvian minnows put themselves in prime position to sneak their way into the next round.
They will still need to come out on the attack as only a win will see them through, and should Molde manage to grab an away goal, a victory by a larger margin will be necessary.
Jelgava were fortunate to have the weekend off from domestic action to rest up for the encounter, and will hope this will give an advantage over a Molde team which, aside from last week's 1-0 home-leg victory, has failed to win in more than two months.
Regardless of Thursday's result, the European journey for the eventual victor will almost surely come to an abrupt end after this round, as they have been paired with German team VfB Stuttgart in the third qualifying round.
Neither team has any suspensions or is reporting any injuries for the game.