Football: Laudrup praises Copenhagen

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The Independent Online
BRIAN LAUDRUP, Chelsea's Prince of Denmark, came up with an eloquent speech in praise of his countrymen from FC Copenhagen yesterday, but it is still difficult to envisage them tonight becoming the first visitors ever to win a European game at Stamford Bridge, where they play in the second round, first leg of the Cup-Winners' Cup .

Assuming that quality triumphs - or at least manages a draw - Chelsea will have completed 25 home matches in Continental competitions without defeat. Having meekly given in to the Football League's request not to take part in the inaugural European Cup, they began by beating Frem, another Copenhagen team, 4-1 in the long, drawn-out Fairs' Cup competition of 1958-60. In the ensuing 40 years, only DWS Amsterdam (1968), Atvidaberg (1971) and Austria Vienna (1994) have so much as held Chelsea.

Laudrup, who played in Chelsea's 1-0 win at home to Helsingborg in the previous round but was surprisingly left out of the goalless draw in Sweden a fortnight later, commented: "I've said to the boys here that Copenhagen are certainly stronger than Helsingborg, so they'll make it difficult for us. They're a typical Scandanavian side, physically very strong, who can run all day and put pressure on opponents. They will come here and play 5-4-1, trying to hit us on the counter, and they'll be very difficult to break down."

Formed only six years ago after a merger between two leading clubs in the Danish capital, FC Copenhagen very much play second fiddle there - and possibly third - behind Brondby, Manchester United's opponents last night. They have competed once in the European Cup, scraping past Linfield after losing 3-0 in Belfast and then going down 6-0 at home to a Milan side that included Laudrup. In the Cup-Winners' Cup last year they lost to Real Betis, who were beaten twice by Chelsea in the next round.

Graham Rix and Gwyn Williams, Gianluca Vialli's assistants, watched them win 5-1 on Sunday to go sixth in the table but admitted that it was a patchy performance. There are no current internationals in the team, though midfielders Bjarne Goldbaek and Peter Nielsen have both been capped. Michael Stensgaard, once a reserve at Liverpool, is in goal and the other player to watch, according to Williams, is striker David Nielsen, described as "a Ruud Gullit look-alike".

Vialli's desire to guard against complacency was helped by his team's shortcomings against lightly regarded opposition on Saturday, when Charlton were three minutes from drawing at the Bridge. "We can perform much better than we did then," he said. "Hopefully we can score more than we did against Helsingborg, when we created six or seven good chances but scored only one. We know when we perform at our best it's difficult to stop us."

The emphasis on the positive was reiterated in the player-manager's call for an end to public complaints by those of his charges who would like to be in the team more often. He will inevitably upset a few more in making tonight's selection, though there may be less disruption than usual, for the side against Charlton was not greatly different from the one that played in Sweden.

The exception was in attack, where Vialli and Tore Andre Flo seem to be established as the pairing for Europe, ahead of Pierluigi Casiraghi and Gianfranco Zola.

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