FC København are hoping to shake off their Danish title "hangover" in time for their UEFA Champions League opener against Beitar Jerusalem FC on Tuesday.
"We have been suffering a hangover from winning the championship earlier this summer," said coach Ståle Solbakken when asked to explain his team's uninspiring start to the new season. Booked in as dead certs to win a third successive Danish title, København have earned a win, a draw and a defeat in their opening three 2007/08 Superliga fixtures and look decidedly shaky.
However, while the coach is talking about a championship hangover, few would deny his side's most pressing concern is finding replacements for some of the players they lost in the summer. Having impressed in last season's group stage, Denmark right-back Lars Jacobsen has moved on to 1. FC Nürnberg while Sweden midfielder Tobias Linderoth is now at Galatasaray SK.
Replacing Jacobsen has proved to be a particularly vexed issue. "We have probably looked at 50 right-backs but we have not found one who would fit into our system," said Solbakken, who is now trying to mould midfielder William Kvist to take over. Rasmus Würtz is billed as Linderoth's long-term successor, but the 23-year-old - signed from Aalborg BK - lacks experience.
A lack of European pedigree may be a big issue for København. New 24-year-old forward Morten Nordstrand, signed from FC Nordsjælland, revealed a little more than his coach might have hoped when he said: "I'm really looking forward to the matches against Beitar but I don't know how I am going to react in those games as I have never played that kind of fixture before."
More experienced newcomers such as Swedish defender Mikael Antonsson and Czech midfielder Libor Sionko can provide a little more European savvy, but since neither has played a full game for the club yet - or in Sionko's case, even a single minute - they may not yet be in the position to provide much leadership against Beitar.
Time running out
"We aim to be a stronger side once the transfer window has closed," København sporting director Carsten V. Jensen said on more than one occasion this summer. At the moment, those words may come back to haunt him. As Beitar prepare for their trip to the Parken Stadium on Tuesday, København can ill afford to let their summer hangover spoil another game.
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