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Jesper Grønkjær is aiming to put Danish football firmly back on the European map as FC København prepare to launch their maiden UEFA Champions League campaign at home against SL Benfica tonight.
The 29-year-old winger missed København's historic third qualifying round victory against one of his former clubs AFC Ajax due to injury, but having returned to the Superliga after eight years abroad, Gronkjær is excited to be back on Europe's big stage.
"For the first time in eight years we have UEFA Champions League football back in Denmark and that is great for Danish football and København especially," he told uefa.com. "All the tickets for the first game were sold within an hour. It's going to be a full stadium for all our home game games which will make for a fantastic atmosphere and hopefully it's going to be a successful autumn for us."
Grønkjær was in the last Danish team to reach the UEFA Champions League group stages in season 1998/99 but, like Aalborg BK two seasons before them, his Brøndby IF side finished bottom of their group. Now Grønkjær is aiming to go one better and record a new chapter in the annals of Danish football.
"Realistically, we have to be after third place in this group," he added. "Manchester United [FC] and Benfica start as group favourites and we will be vying with Celtic [FC] to upset the other two. However, we are not here to make up the numbers. We might be the underdogs but we're going to give it a real go."
Kobenhavn can take comfort from the news that influential playmaker Rui Costa will be missing for the Portuguese side, but Grønkjær revealed that he expects to play a slightly more attacking role against Benfica with Marcus Allbäck ruled out through suspension.
"I will probably play a different role for the Benfica game," he said. "I will find out more before the game but I expect to play a supporting role for the main striker. Marcus is not going to be there, so the other players will have to take up the slack and I am confident we can do that."
Grønkjær is hoping a combination of experience and youthful enthusiasm will see them get Kobenhavn's campaign off to a positive start in front of their own fans. "Experience is always a strange factor as I don't know how you measure it," he added. "Of course I have been here before with clubs like Chelsea [FC], Ajax and Brøndby, but I think it's important to enjoy these nights. We are not here as spectators but these are special occasions and we have to perform as well as we can."
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