Trio out for Danes

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DENMARK'S preparations for their opening Euro 2004 qualifier against Scandinavian rivals Norway have suffered a triple injury blow.

Brondby striker Ruben Bagger, Udinese winger Martin Jorgensen and experienced Panathinaikos defender Rene Henriksen have all been ruled out of Saturday's clash in Oslo.

Bagger will be sidelined for five weeks and is anxious that his injury does not hinder his future international chances.

"The doctor judged that it will take three weeks from the time when I got injured before I can start running," Bagger told BT.

"Additionally, he claimed that it will take two to three weeks before I will be fully fit to play football.

"Now, it's just a matter of getting fit again as soon as possible and be as good again so I get a new chance in the national team."

Schalke midfielder Christian Poulsen (pictured) is confident Denmark can overcome their treble loss and does not believe coach Morten Olsen will employ him as an emergency centre half.

"Rene gives us a lot of experience and gives the side stability," Poulsen told BT. "It will be hard to replace him but we have got good people in Steven Lustue, Martin Albrechtsen and Per Nielsen.

"That (playing centre half) is nothing I believe you should count on. After all, I have played most of my matches as a central midfielder and we have got some really good defenders in the squad.

"In case Morten feels I am the most suitable for that position, I will of course play there but as I said, I don't think so."

Lustue is expected to get the nod over late inclusions Albrechtsen and Nielsen with the Lyn stopper expecting a tough battle against the Norwegians.

"It's obvious that we will play differently when Rene is not with us," stated Lustue.

"I have got other strengths but I feel those will be important in a match like the one versus Norway. It will be a match marked by physical play with very few chances."

Meanwhile, Schalke striker Ebbe Sand has been appointed captain for the tussle with Norway, replacing the injured Henriksen.

Sand was honoured to be handed the role by coach Olsen: "I am proud to have reached this far in the national team but it is just because Rene is injured.

"It's just before the kick-off of the match that I will notice it."