DAVID SMITH - Friday, November 18, 2011
Mikkel Diskerud and Stabaek host Haugesund for their final home game of the season while Sean Cunningham will hope to finally make his league debut for already-crowned champions Molde.
Stabaek IF - FK Haugesund
Mikkel Diskerud and Stabaek will play their penultimate game of a largely disappointing season on Sunday when they host eighth-place Haugesund.
The bug of a porous defense and an overall lack of consistency, combined with off-field distractions down the final stretch has left Stabaek looking set for a second straight bottom-half finish.
Barely three years ago they lifted the Tippeligaen trophy and looked like one of the rising powers in Norway, but they once again will end the season and spend the winter months looking for answers to an all-too-familiar set of questions.
Their play in recent weeks has well represented the overall indifference and lack of focus they have displayed since the season began in April, with just a single win since mid-August dropping them from the earlier chance of European qualification to the lower half of the standings.
Diskerud has been solid despite Stabaek's woes and was one of the leading figures in the recent US Olympic team camp, but must now turn his focus to trying to help the team salvage some pride in what may be his last pair of games with the club.
Haugesund are situated directly ahead of Stabaek in the standings, and have fared slightly better in the last two months, although a loss and draw immediately before the international break has effectively killed whatever momentum they might have had through the fall.
Stabaek have a fully fit squad to choose from, while Haugesund could be without a pair of players.
Midfielder Umaru Bangura is out on yellow card suspension and forward Alexander Soderlund is questionable as he is still recovering from a dislocated shoulder. Midfielder Trygve Nygaard missed their last outing in late-October with a knee injury, but should return to the fold on Sunday.
While practically safe from the drop, backup keeper Joseph Bendik and Sogndal IL can mathematically secure their place in the Tippeligaen for next season with any kind of positive result when they visit Odd Grenland on Sunday.
Josh Gatt is still out with a severe hamstring pull, however Molde left back Sean Cunningham could finally be called up on by his team for his league debut on Sunday when the already-crowed Tippeligaen champions host dead-last Sarpsborg 08 FF.