FC Copenhagen provide an unknown but tricky test for Chelsea

A slump has turned into a depression, and the English champions’ best hope of silverware is arguably the European competition Roman Abramovich craves above all others after their defeat to Everton in the FA Cup at the weekend.

But FC Copenhagen are an unknown quantity in many quarters, and will pose a serious threat to the hopes of Carlo Ancelotti’s side in their two legged encounter. The Danish club are top of their league, which may not be cause for much optimism when facing a side significantly better than their domestic opposition, but Copenhagen have won 16 and drawn 3 of their 19 games this season. They have also held Barcelona this year, something few teams have been able to do at home or abroad, and boast a proud record of having never lost a home game in Europe.

The Danish side have had a more relaxed build up to the clash than Chelsea, having engaged in a series of friendlies in recent weeks; the latest of which was a convincing 5-0 rout of Norwegian champions Rosenborg. Copenhagen are the first Danish side to qualify for the knock out phase of the Champions League in its history, and defeated Panathinaikos and Rubin Kazan in the group stage; which was no mean feat.

The threat Copenhagen pose will be serious. At the back they have Johan Wiland, whose brilliance in goal has been key in the club’s superb defensive record this season. With just 15 goals conceded in 19 games he has demonstrated that it will take something special to beat him when Chelsea visit.

Going forward they can call upon ex Chelsea favourite Jesper Gronkjaer to provide creativity and attacking spark, but perhaps most dangerous will be Brazilian playmaker Claudemir, who along with Danish international William Qvist provides a robust central midfield which Chelsea will have to break down. For a Brazilian he offers surprisingly reliable defensive work, but he is best going forward, with a nimble two footed style and a range of passing which can test any defence. An eye for goal, he struck in the game with Barcelona in the group stage.

Up front, Dame N’Doye provides a serious physical threat which Chelsea’s defenders will have to cope with, though they should be a good match for the forward’s talents. Tactically they are set up in a 4-4-2 formation, and in keeping with most Scandinavian sides, they are well drilled and organised, with a resolute defensive system that means their opponents will have to work hard to break them down. It will be down to Chelsea to find the answers to the tricky questions the Danes will pose and to contain them going forward, where they will pose a threat.

There is no doubt that Chelsea are the stronger team but this will not be the walkover many have anticipated. Copenhagen will stifle and break quickly with pace and precision. Chelsea have recently dominated games but failed to convert their numerous chances. If they take that form into this match then they could have a problem; as Copenhagen are capable of punishing any team going forward. Chelsea should win, but the Danish side will push them close.