They may have been the dominant force in Danish football over the last decade but FC København have managed to reach the UEFA Champions League group stage only once before, when they pitted their wits against Manchester United FC, Celtic FC and SL Benfica in 2006/07.
Now the Danish titleholders are hoping to rejoin the elite, yet before they can even contemplate a play-off for the group stage, they must finish the job in their third qualifying round tie against FC BATE Borisov. A goalless draw away to the Belarusian champions appears to have left Ståle Solbakken's men well placed ahead of Wednesday's second leg at the Parken Stadium, but their coach remains cautious. "Nil-nil was an OK result, but it was not perfect for us," he said. "If you're going to draw away, 1-1 would be better because of the away-goals rule."
Besides the absence of an away goal, Solbakken has other concerns. He said before the season started that his FCK squad were not as strong as they had been when capturing a second successive Danish championship in the spring, their seventh crown in ten campaigns. The summer departure of Atiba Hutchinson to PSV Eindhoven has been strongly felt, in particular. Brazilian midfielder Claudemir, a different type of player, has arrived from BV Vitesse while a replacement for the Canadian international may still be found. FCK sporting director Carsten V Jensen said: "It's not over yet. We are still active and attentive in the transfer window, we're not ruling out new signings."
On the evidence of Saturday's disappointing 1-1 home draw with Aalborg BK, FCK may well require further reinforcing should they proceed to a UEFA Champions League play-off. Twelve months ago they were clear favourites against APOEL FC yet ended up missing out on the group stage after losing 3-2 on aggregate to Cypriot club. Before they can think of making amends for that, FCK must get past BATE – opponents for whom Solbakken has the greatest respect. "We could probably not get tougher opposition in the play-offs," he said.
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