Out of contention for the league and cup in their native Norway, Viking FK are hoping a place in the UEFA Cup group stage can redeem their disappointing season.
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Much was expected of Viking in 2008 after the Stavanger side finished third in Norway in their first campaign under German coach Uwe Rösler last time out. Thus far, Viking have disappointed on the domestic front, with nothing symbolising their declining fortunes like the form of Peter Ijeh. The Nigerian striker scored 18 goals in 2007. This time around, he has scored just once. He is now returning to something approaching top form after struggling with a groin problem for much of the season, but is also having to deal with a change of strike partner. Andrius Velička was his foil prior to the Lithuanian's move to Rangers FC, with Rösler taking Mame Niang on loan from VfL Wolfsburg as his replacement.
The onus is now on Ijeh and Niang to fire Viking through to the UEFA Cup first round next Thursday. Having earned a 0-0 draw in the away leg of their second qualifying round tie at FC Honka, they look to hold the advantage over their Finnish opponents. However, Viking have proved that they can pull out all the stops when circumstances demand. Going into their league game against FC Lyn Oslo on 3 August with ten players injured, including stars like Ragnvald Soma, Nicolai Stokholm and Jone Samuelsen, Rösler brought in youngsters, fielded several players out of position and remarkably earned a 2-0 home win.
"This was a really good game, all things considered," he said. "I don't know what we have done wrong to have all these injuries, but this shows that our squad stands up to pressure." The injury crisis has now subsided and he expects to have a full squad to pick from against Honka. It remains to be seen how his first-choice team will cope when the stakes are really high.