Norway's Tippeligaen resumed last weekend after a one-month summer break and the league's four European contenders are turning their thoughts to UEFA competition, with Stabæk IF hoping to use their campaign to kick-start a below-par domestic season.
Third in 2009, Stabæk lie seventh after Monday's 4-3 win against Molde BK, ten points adrift of unbeaten leaders Rosenborg BK. On 15 July they welcome FC Dnepr Mogilev for their UEFA Europa League second qualifying round first-leg tie, but go into the game with coach Jan Jönsson having announced he will be leaving at the end of the year.
Jönsson, who boasts playing and coaching experience in Japan as well as his native Sweden, came to Stabæk in 2005 and immediately guided the relegated club back to the top flight. Since 2007 they have not finished outside the top three, winning the title for the first time two years ago and last term making the UEFA Europa League play-offs, only to lose to Valencia CF.
His reign is now coming to an end although the 50-year-old remains fully focused. "I am not thinking about next year," Jönsson said. "We have important league games to come, in addition to the qualifiers for the UEFA Europa League. I really hope our European matches will give us a lift."
By the time they begin their European bid, Jönsson will hope Stabæk's injury problems have eased. Prolific striker Daniel Nannskog was the latest to succumb when he suffered a groin strain in training, making him a doubt along with fellow forward Jan Tømmernes (collarbone), midfielder Pontus Farnerud (ankle) and defender Morten Skjønsberg (knee).
Definitely without midfielder Johan Andersson with a calf problem and striker Torstein Andersen Aase due to a head injury, Jönsson said: "If these players are not ready, we will have to cope without them. I feel we still have sufficient quality to progress."
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