FC København only narrowly missed out on the UEFA Champions League group stage, losing in extra time to LOSC Lille in the play-offs, but coach Ariël Jacobs is not expecting a significant dip in quality when his side kick off their UEFA Europa League campaign at home to Molde FK on Thursday.
The odds appear stacked in København's favour for the Group E opener. Their bid to reclaim the Danish Super League crown FC Nordsjælland denied them on the final day of last season is on course after Saturday's 2-1 victory over the title holders. Now they begin their tilt at European glory against Norwegian champions Molde, knowing they have never lost at home to sides from across the Skagerrak in seven previous ties. Jacobs is anything but complacent, however.
"When you're still in Europe come September, it means you have a good team," said the 59-year-old. "That is as true of Molde as it is of us. Molde definitely have a good team, as confirmed by their current standing in the Norwegian league. They will not be easy to handle and they have some good players."
Marco van Basten's sc Heerenveen discovered this to their cost in the UEFA Europa League play-offs as they were swept aside 4-1 on aggregate. However, Ole Gunnar Solskjær says København, "the best team in Scandinavia", will be another step up in class. "I was here 18 months ago when they played against Chelsea in the Champions League [losing 2-0] and got a good impression of the club.
I think we're closer to their level than we were then, but we will have to be at our best."
Solskjær, whose side remain level with Strømsgodset IF at the Norwegian Premier Division summit after Saturday's 1-0 win against FK Haugesund, has been questioning Pape Paté Diouf about the forward's former team. Jacobs, though, says he knows just what to expect in the weeks ahead. "Stuttgart are group favourites, but the level in the competition is high and it will be a fight to the bitter end."
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