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Grønkjær returns for Rosenborg decider

Jesper Grønkjær may be FC København's talisman again after cutting Rosenborg BK's first-leg lead last week though coach Ståle Solbakken is wary of asking too much of the 33-year-old.

Jesper Grønkjær (right) celebrates his goal in Trondheim
Jesper Grønkjær (right) celebrates his goal in Trondheim ©Getty Images

An 84th-minute header from Jesper Grønkjær has left the UEFA Champions League play-off between FC København and Rosenborg BK wide open ahead of the decisive second leg in Copenhagen, with the winger in line to star again as the Danish champions attempt to overturn a 2-1 deficit.

The 33-year-old was rested for Saturday's 3-0 league win against Lyngby BK as København made it 16 points from a possible 18, their best league start since their foundation in 1992. Coach Ståle Solbakken insisted Grønkjær, who brings valuable European pedigree to the team after spells at AFC Ajax, Chelsea FC, Club Atlético de Madrid and VfB Stuttgart,  is not injured but, given his age, will use him as sparingly as possible.

"He is getting on in years but he is completely fresh and the only reason that he did not play against Lyngby was the fact that he needs to be absolutely fit for Wednesday," explained the 42-year-old coach, who was capped 58 times as a midfielder for Norway. "However, we can no longer expect him to be able to play for a full 90 minutes at European level."

København top the table at home, although captain Hjalte Bo Nørregaard expects them to raise their game still further against Rosenborg. "The feelings in the dressing room after the first match up there were a bit mixed," said the 29-year-old midfielder. "However, the fact that we managed to reduce the deficit [to 2-1] was extremely important. Aside from that, we know that we can play much better than we did."

With Ghanaian Anthony Annan suspended, the 40-year-old Roar Strand has a chance of featuring at the Parken Stadium. "I certainly hope to start, but this match is so important for the club and what matters most is that we go through," said the Rosenborg veteran. "We cannot risk being pegged back in our own half. We need to put pressure on them and look to score the first goal."

Strand found the net in Sunday's 3-1 win against Molde FK, as did Mikael Dorsin and Steffen Iversen, while striker Rade Prica was rested but is likely to return for the København game. The weekend result kept Rosenborg nine points clear at the top of the Tippeligaen, but coach Nils Arne Eggen still expects better from his team. "That performance would not have been good enough to eliminate København," he said. "This side needs to be at its absolute best for us to have any chance."