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Preview: Helsingborgs IF

by Stuart Vose

Guide to next friendly opponents.

Sunderland head to Sweden this weekend to take on Helsingborgs IF at the 17,200-capacity Olympia Stadium.

Di Roe (The Reds) are a real force in Scandinavian football and are the reigning Swedish champions, having won the league by five points last season.

They won 18, drew nine and lost just three of their 30 games, finishing with a league-best goal difference of +28 to comfortably see off second-placed AIK in the final table.

The title was the club's first since 1999 and the fifth in their history.

They also became the first team ever to win the Swedish treble, capturing both the Super Cup and Swedish Cup, beating Kalmar FF 3-1 in the final of the latter competition.

Helsingborgs' league win entitled them to enter this season's Champions League at the second qualifying round, where they beat Welsh side TNS 3-0 on aggregate.

They will face Polish side Slask Wroclaw in the third qualifying round, with the first leg scheduled for next week. A successful qualifying campaign would see the club included in the group stages of the most prestigious European competition for the first time since 2000-01.

They also reached the group stages of the UEFA Cup in 2007-08, reaching the Round of 32 where they were defeated by PSV Eindhoven 4-1 on aggregate.

The Swedish season runs from April until October, with Helsingborg having played 17 of their 30 league games. They currently sit fifth with a record of seven wins, seven draws and three defeats.

Perhaps Helsingborgs' most famous son is striker Henrik Larsson, who played under Martin O'Neill at Celtic.

The forward played for the club between 1992-93 and again from 2006 to 2009, scoring 104 goals in 163 games for the club.

Rade Prica, who had a brief spell at Sunderland between 2008 and 2009, also played for Helsingborgs, as did Roland Nilsson, who won a total of 116 caps for Sweden.