FC Copenhagen manager Stale Solbakken believes a positive result against Juventus in tomorrow night’s Champions League Group B opener could kick-start his team’s faltering Danish Superliga title defence.
The 45-year-old, who steered the club to five domestic championships during his first stint in charge between 2006 and 2011, made a recent emotional return to the Parken Stadium dugout after the team registered their worst ever start to a league season.
Things have improved somewhat since the Norwegian regained the reins, ending a 12-match winless streak with September’s emphatic 4-1 away victory over Viborg, but their lowly position of third from bottom suggests that there is still room for improvement.
And whilst admitting the odds are firmly stacked against his side tomorrow night, Solbakken challenged his men to cause an upset by gaining a result against the reigning champions of Italy.
Speaking to the media in Copenhagen, Solbakken said: “Getting a result tomorrow could represent the turning point of our entire season. We’re focusing on the three games that we’ll be playing at home, even though we’re perhaps in the most difficult group.
“Juventus need to win at all costs and perhaps we’ll be able to surprise them. We hope to do the same against Galatasaray. We’ll be playing against superior sides, but perhaps they might underestimate us.
“We need to believe we can do it, otherwise we won’t get a result. We need to stick to our own game plan, have plenty of belief and play to the best of our abilities. If we do just that, who knows, we could well spring a surprise.”
Alongside his manager in the Parken Stadium press suite was a familiar face to Bianconeri fans - Swedish defender Olof Mellberg.
The 36-year-old centre-back, who spent the 2008/09 campaign in Turin after joining on a free transfer from Aston Villa, says today’s Juventus is barely recognisable from the team he featured in, differing in both playing style and personnel.
He said: “The team has changed a great deal since I was there. Back then they had plenty of experienced players, such as Del Piero, Trezeguet, Camoranesi and Neved. Now they’re a younger group and have changed their style of play.
“Only Buffon, Chiellini, Marchisio, Giovinco and De Ceglie have remained from my spell in Turin. It’s a completely different side and I think they’ve improved.”
On tomorrow’s game, Mellberg added: “It will be difficult because we haven’t had much time on the training ground to prepare specifically for this clash. But we’ll give it our best shot and try and get a result.
“We’re aware of the dangers that we could potentially come up against, I played against Carlos Tevez when he was at Manchester United and tomorrow will be a tough battle against a striker of his quality.”