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By Svend Frandsen
After their 5-0 defeat at the hands of Olympique Lyonnais, Rosenborg BK need an immediate response against AFC Ajax in the sides' UEFA Champions League Group D meeting in Trondheim on Wednesday.
Desperate for points
Following their 2-2 draw with Internazionale FC at the Lerkendal stadium a fortnight ago, the crushing defeat in Lyon last week left Rosenborg coach Nils Arne Eggen none too confident about his side's prospects in the competition. "At this moment I would say our chances are about zero but, after the next game, I fully expect them to be around minus five or minus ten," Eggen said afterwards.
On a positive note, Rosenborg can welcome back Roar Strand and Janne Saarinen, who both missed the Lyon encounter. In Strand's case, his absence ended a run of 51 consecutive appearances for Rosenborg in the Champions League and his return is much-needed on a night the Norwegians will need all their experience.
Rosenborg's recent record in the Champions League is poor: since winning their first group stage section in October 1999, they have won three and lost 13 of their subsequent 20 matches. However, their domestic form is good and they eased their way to a 4-1 victory at FK Bodø/Glimt over the weekend to open up a three-point gap ahead of Molde FK and SFK Lyn as they chase an eleventh consecutive Tippeliga title.
The key to success for Ronald Koeman's young Ajax side will be to make the most of their chances. The Dutch champions looked in control throughout their match at Inter on Matchday Two but failed to capitalise on their overall dominance and went down 1-0. There was no consolation for Koeman on Sunday when Ajax dropped their first points in the Eredivisie this season in a 2-2 draw with NAC Breda at the Amsterdam ArenA.
Injury problems have also hit his squad - Jari Litmanen sustained a thigh injury against NAC, and Johnny Heitinga damaged his cruciate ligaments. The young full-back would have been in contention to replace captain Christian Chivu, who is doubtful with a thigh strain. Veterans Richard Witchsge and Aron Winter have travelled to Trondheim to provide back-up on the flanks. Koeman said he had "not yet decided" his approach "because we've had so many injuries".
Respect for Rosenborg
Ajax have three points to their name after beating Lyon on Matchday One yet Koeman was guarded about their chances of adding to this total on Wednesday. "The fact that Rosenborg were thrashed by Lyon could be an advantage for them in this match," he said. "They will be wanting to impress a little more in front of their own public. I respect their team because of the way they played against Inter and they have great physical qualities." Rosenborg will need all these qualities if they are to stay alive in this season's competition.
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