Ståle Solbakken has told his FC København players they have a "fair chance" of reaching the group stage if they take their chances against an APOEL FC side warned to keep mistakes to a minimum.
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FC København coach Ståle Solbakken has warned his players they must take their chances against an APOEL FC side whose own trainer, Ivan Jovanović, is expecting a "difficult" assignment in the first leg of their play-off tie in Denmark.
Ståle Solbakken, København coach
We're facing a very experienced team – they've got many different nationalities and their players are used to international football with their national sides. They are exceptional defensively, which will make it difficult for us, but over the two legs we have a fair chance of going through. I don't expect the tie to be decided tomorrow but if we can keep a clean sheet and score then I will be very pleased. We must be more clinical with our finishing than we have been so far this season – we have wasted too many chances, especially at home. Your defensive errors get punished more severely in Europe than domestically and the games are often decided by pieces of individual brilliance so we need to keep our composure and concentration for 90 minutes.
Ivan Jovanović, APOEL coach
When we drew FC København we knew immediately that we were up against opponents of great quality. They are one of the best sides in Scandinavia with great experience of playing in Europe. We have tried to get the best preparation possible but it will be difficult as they have a lot of skilled players. I like their style of football. They are attack-minded but still keep a tight organisation. I believe this tie is more difficult than our tie in the last round against [FK] Partizan, but our team are in good shape. We badly want to qualify for the group stage, and for that to happen we’ll need to stay focused for the entire match and keep our mistakes to a minimum.
• Although, technically speaking, the sides have never met before, APOEL did face one of København's parent clubs, Boldklubben 1903, precisely 30 years ago. The merger of B1903 with Kjøbenhavns Boldklub in 1992 created the modern-day København, but prior to that, in 1979/80, B1903 took on APOEL in the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup preliminary round. The Danish side won the first leg 6-0 at home on 15 August 1979 and completed a resounding aggregate triumph with a 1-0 victory in the return on 8 September.
• København's goal is to secure their first appearance in the group stage since they first made it through in 2006/07 by defeating Myllykosken Pallo-47 and AFC Ajax in successive qualifying rounds. Those triumphs reversed a trend that brought the Danish side defeats at the qualifying stage on four occasions (2001/02, 2003/04, 2004/05 and 2007/08).
• The Copenhagen side also fell short of the group stage in an earlier version of the competition format in 1993/94, losing 7-0 on aggregate to AC Milan in the second round.
• APOEL are looking to follow the lead of their compatriots Anorthosis Famagusta FC, who became the first Cypriot club to reach the UEFA Champions League proper last term.
How they reached the play-offs
• København swept aside Montenegro's FK Mogren 12-0 on aggregate in the second qualifying round before a more closely contested tie against Stabæk IF. The Danish champions won 3-1 in Copenhagen – Jesper Grønkjær and Cesar Santin the scorers – before holding on for a goalless draw in Norway.
• APOEL secured a surprise 2-1 aggregate success against FK Partizan in the third qualifying round. After a 2-0 home victory via goals from Nenad Mirosavljević and Marcin Żewłakow, Jovanović's men limited the Serbian titleholders to a single-goal victory in the return in Belgrade. They had earlier defeated Faroese side EB/Streymur 5-0 on aggregate in the second qualifying round.
Misses next match if booked: Mikael Antonsson, Mathias Jorgensen
Suspended: Joost Broerse, Savvas Poursaitidis
Misses next match if booked: Nektarios Alexandrou, Marinos Satsias, Żewłakow
Last competitive results
15/08/09 København 0-1 AGF Århus (Danish Superligaen) (Graulund 33)
Did you know?
Both clubs competed in the UEFA Cup in 2008/09. København reached the Round of 32, while APOEL were knocked out in the first round.