FC Copenhagen manager Stale Solbakken and his captain Lars Jacobsen have set themselves the task of pulling off another of the type of plucky displays which have kept them in the hunt for knockout stage qualification when they line up against Juventus tomorrow night.
Widely regarded as group outsiders when the draw was made, they were perhaps even more so when struggling in their domestic relegation zone on the dawn of this season’s European bow.
However, the Danes have proved many wrong after registering a draw with the Bianconeri and an impressive 1-0 victory over Galatasaray at home, as well as their current six-match unbeaten run in the Superliga.
But Solbakken, speaking at Juventus Stadium during the Danes’ pre-match press conference, recognised that the Juve side his men will line up against tomorrow night have also got into their stride: “They played just as well as Real Madrid in the two games against them, and they’re now top of Serie A.
“Their form has improved over the last six weeks, and they now have an alternative in Fernando Llorente. At Parken Stadium we weren’t that afraid of crosses because they had two smaller guys up front, but now they have a stronger physical presence.”
When questioned whether he feared suffering the same fate dealt by Juventus to fellow Danes Nordsjaelland last year (after drawing 1-1 in Denmark just as they have done this year, Antonio Conte’s men then won 4-0 in Turin), the Norwegian replied that it doesn’t worry him.
“We have the greatest respect for them and there’s always a possibility when you play a team as strong as Juve, but we fear nothing. It’s not in our plan: we want to go for it. There’s a lot of pressure on them, which could work to our advantage.
“We played well in the first half against Real but paid dearly for two errors in the second, whereas we had more difficulty against Galatasaray. We’ll learn a lot again tomorrow whether we win or lose. That’s the case for the smaller teams in this competition, and it has been a great experience for some of my younger players.”
Solbakken revealed that his job has been made more challenging by injuries to key squad members Daniel Braaten, Igor Vetokele and Rurik Gislason and a lack of adequate preparation time, but concluded by reiterating that FC Copenhagen’s sights are set on a sole objective.
“It’s a tough task to play one of the best sides in Europe when you’ve had such little time on the training ground, but we need a point tomorrow, so we’ll put up a strong fight and give it our all for the full 90 minutes.”
Sitting by his side, captain Lars Jacobsen also stressed that tomorrow’s clash is at the forefront of his mind: “We played very well in the first half the last time we faced them, but it was tougher in the second when Juve stepped up their pressing. We’ll try to repeat that first-half performance, that would be ideal.”