DAVID SMITH - Wednesday, August 4, 2010
Michael Parkhurst and Nordsjælland face a tough road to overcome Sporting in Portugal while Daniel Antunez and Inter Turku will try to hold their own against Genk as Europa League third round qualifying wraps up.
Sporting CP - FC Nordsjælland (agg. 1-0)
Michael Parkhurst is expected to get the start in Nordsjælland's back line on Thursday evening as the team heads to Lisbon for a tough encounter with Sporting.
The Wild Tigers put on a valiant defensive performance in last week's home leg, but were done in by a 25th-minute goal by Montenegran midfielder Simon Vukcevic.
The result left them with a must-win situation for the return leg in Sporting's Estádio José Alvalade to have any hope of advancing to the play-off round, however the weekend's convincing 2-0 road win in league play of Randers will have them brimming with confidence as they head to the western tip of the Iberian peninsula.
The squad will be boosted by the return of Parkhurst's central defensive partner Andreas Bjelland to the squad as he has appeared to have recovered from a slight knee twist which kept him out of their last two contests. Otherwise, the team has made the trip to Portugal with the full squad which put up the weekend's win, and will hope to keep up their tendency to pull out big wins on the road.
Sporting could be without influential midfielder Pedro Mendes after the former Rangers player twisted his knee in the first leg, but otherwise have a full squad ready for the encounter.
Genk - Inter Turku (agg. 5-1)
Daniel Antunez and Inter Turku have little chance to overturn their four-goal deficit on their visit to Genk, but will hope to put together a better performance than their 5-1 collapse the week before.
After falling behind by two goals before the half, Inter gave the home fans momentary hope of a come-back with a strike by Guillano Grot after the break, before their Belgian opposition unleashed a further three goals to put it out of reach.
In the middle of their domestic season, the reigning Finnish Cup winners Turku are seeing the injuries mount up, leaving head coach Job Dragtsma without many of his influential starters.
Last week's goal-scorer Guillano Grot has been left in Finland to deal with a knock, while three players starting or participating in last week's contest - midfielder Kennedy Nwanganga, forward Timo Furuholm and defender Sami Sanevuori - have also been left behind with slight injuries.
Additionally, keeper Patrick Bantamoi, defenders Tero Mäntylä and Jermu Gustafsson, as well as midfielders Felix Åkerlund and Pablo Gomez all missed the trip due to injury.
Genk also has slight injury problems of their own as forward Thomas Buffel continues to miss with a thigh contusion and backup keeper Verhulst Davino will be kept off the bench with a wrist injury, while midfielder Daniel Pudil is suspended.
Freddy Adu is not included on Aris' roster as the team looks to seal their passage into the play-off round, already holding a 2-1 advantage over Polish team Jagiellonia Białystok prior to the return leg in Thessaloniki.