FCK given ‘Lille’ chance

The Danish runners-up face a stern French test to make the Champions League group stage

All the teams’ representatives had put on their finest suits and were present at FIFA’s headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland ahead of the draw for the final qualifying stages of the Champions League and the Europa League today. And the results were dire for two of the Danish teams.

Kalou, Pedretti, Debuchy and Landreau. These are just some of the names that will be running out on to the Parken football pitch in Østerbro when FC Copenhagen play their final qualification fixture in a bid to reach the Champions League group stage. Needless to say, Club Brugge is a walk in the park compared to this lot.

Lille finished third in the French Ligue 1 last season, and although they’ve sold a couple of key players, including top scorer Eden Hazard to Chelsea, the team from northern France will prove to be a difficult opponent to overcome.

Lille won the French double in 2011 and played in last season's Champions League group stage, finishing bottom of their group. They have replaced Hazard with Chelsea's Solomon Kalou and managed, so far anyways, to keep Mathieu Debuchy, who played a good Euro 2012 for France and is wanted by Newcastle United.

And despite FCK’s admirable victory in Belgium on Wednesday, sporting director Carsten V Jensen was not so chirpy following the draw.

“It was what I feared, personally. We have met French teams before, such as Marseille, and we have seen the strength French teams possess,” Jensen told Bold.dk. “The French league is quality, and Lille has been one of the teams to dominate it in recent years.”

And Lille has a Danish connection who can vouch for the pressure FCK will come under. Lille’s Brazilian striker Tulio de Melo scored six goals in 19 appearances for Aalborg BK back in the 2004-05 season, while FC Nordsjælland winger Emil Lyng is currently on loan from Lille.

“FCK has a chance for sure. They were fortunate and good against Brugge, and player for player they have the quality needed to get past Lille,” Lyng told Bold.dk

But pessimistic pundits will be pointing to the last time FCK met a French side, when they were knocked out of the last 16 of the Europa League by Olympique Marseille in 2010.

The first game will be played in France on either August 21 or 22, while the return leg in Copenhagen is slated for the following week.

In the Europa League draw, AC Horsens, who brought home some much-needed coefficient points by knocking out Swedish outfit Elfsborg in the previous round, face a much studier challenge in the form of last season’s Europa League semi-finalists Sporting Lisbon.

It’s the third straight year that Sporting will play Danish teams in Europe, and they don’t mind at all. They beat FCN in the Europa League qualifiers last year and amazingly also beat them the year before, along with Brøndby.

FC Midtjylland was the luckiest in the draw, getting Young Boys from Switzerland, who has Danish midfielder Michael Silberbauer playing for them.