FC Copenhagen and Trabzonspor are both looking to end long absences from the UEFA Champions League group stage as they meet in the Danish capital for the first leg of their play-off.
The home side are aiming to reach the last 32 in the competition for the first time in six years, while Trabzonspor’s only previous appearance was 11 seasons ago.
It’s the first match for both teams and, while Copenhagen have plenty of experience with Turkish opponents – including at this stage of last season’s UEFA Europa Conference League – Trabzonspor have not faced a Danish club for over 30 years old.
While Copenhagen have never conceded a goal at home to the Turkish visitors, Trabzonspor are yet to score in Denmark.
Copenhagen are aiming to reach the group stage for the fifth time, and the first since 2016/17. No other Danish team has played more than twice.
In their last group stage appearance six seasons ago, Copenhagen finished third in Group G behind Leicester City and Porto despite nine points from six matches, losing just once and not conceding a goal at home. It was the third of their four UEFA Champions League proper campaigns to end by then, apart from 2010/11 when they lost to Chelsea in the round of 16.
Copenhagen’s record in the UEFA Champions League play-offs is W2 L5, with the last draw resulting in a loss on away goals against Qarabağ in 2017/18 (0-1 a, 2-1 h). A penalty shootout loss to Crvena zvezda in the 2019/20 third qualifying round earned them ten eliminations in their previous 13 UEFA Champions League qualifying campaigns.
In 2021/22, Jess Thorup’s side have gone through three qualifying rounds to reach the inaugural group stage of the UEFA Europa Conference League, where they have won five of their top six matches in Group F. However, they was then dismissed by PSV Eindhoven in the round of 16 (4-4 h, 0-4 h).
Copenhagen won their 14th Danish league title, all since 1993, and their fourth in seven seasons in 2021/22.
The Danish side won away (2-1) and home (5-0) against Sivasspor in last season’s UEFA Europa Conference League qualifying play-offs, setting their overall record against teams Turkish W4 L2. They won all three home games, scoring nine goals without conceding.
Trabzonspor are aiming to reach the group stage for only the second time. In 2011/12 they finished third in Group B behind Inter and CSKA Moskva after picking up seven points, their only win being a 1-0 win at Milan on Matchday 1.
This season was also Trabzonspor’s third and final UEFA Champions League qualifying appearance, after 2004/05 and 2005/06. They lost to Benfica in the third qualifying round (0-2 a, 1-1 h) but were then settled in the group stage after Fenerbahçe were disqualified.
The Black Sea side, who were beaten by PSV Eindhoven (1-2h, 1-4a) in the 2011/12 UEFA Europa League Round of 16 after being transferred to UEFA Champions League, then took part in the group stage of this competition. three times, reaching the last 32 in 2013/14 and 2014/15, but no further progress in 2019/20.
In 2021/22, Trabzonspor beat Molde 4-3 on penalties in the UEFA Europa Conference League third qualifying round (3-3h, 1-1a) to lose to eventual champions Roma in play-offs (1-2 h, 0-3 a).
Trabzonspor won their first Turkish Süper Lig title since 1983/84 and their seventh overall last season and are now bidding to become the fourth club in their country to feature in multiple UEFA Champions League group campaigns after Galatasaray ( 16 appearances), Beşiktaş (eight) and Fenerbahçe (six).
Trabzonspor’s previous four games with Danish opponents have been against B1903 København, one of the clubs that merged to form FC Copenhagen in 1992. The Turkish side won 1-0 at home in the first leg of the 1977/78 European Cup, but were eliminated. after a 2-0 away defeat; they were also beaten on their next visit to Copenhagen, 1-0 in the 1991/92 UEFA Cup third round first leg to end in a 2-1 aggregate defeat.
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Trabzonspor striker Andreas Cornelius rose through the youth ranks at Copenhagen, making his Danish Superliga debut in April 2012. He scored 18 goals in 32 league appearances in 2012/13, earning him a transfer in English Premier League Cardiff, but soon returned to Copenhagen, scoring a further 28 league goals in 91 games over the next four seasons.
Cornelius won three Danish Superliga titles with Copenhagen in 2012/13, 2015/16 and 2016/17, adding the Danish Cup in 2014/15, 2015/16 and 2016/17. The striker also won the Superliga Golden Boot and Player of the Year awards in 2012/13.
Cornelius was a Copenhagen teammate of Peter Ankersen from 2015 to 2017.
Trabzonspor right-back Jens Stryger Larsen is also Danish and joined local rivals Copenhagen Brøndby aged 15 in 2006, making his senior debut in November 2009. The defender made 105 appearances for the club before signing for Nordsjælland in 2013/14, making 38 appearances in his campaign alone.
Stryger Larsen’s record against Copenhagen is W3 D4 L9. His own goal gave Copenhagen a 1-0 home win against Nordsjælland in the Danish Cup semi-final first leg on 26 March 2014.
Stryger Larsen played alongside Nicolai Boilesen in Brøndby’s youth teams.
Has played in Turkey:
Khouma Babacar (Alanyaspor 2020-22)
Babacar’s teammates at Alanyaspor included Manolis Siopis and Anastasios Bakasetas.
Also played together:
Marios Oikonomou & Anastasios Bakasetas (AEK Athens 2018/19)
Khouma Babacar & Vitor Hugo (Fiorentina 2017/18)
Nicolai Boilesen & Stefano Denswil (young Ajax, senior 2009-15)
Mathew Ryan & Stefano Denswil (Club Brugge 2015)
Lukas Lerager & Andreas Cornelius (Bordeaux 2018/19)
Zeca, Marios Oikonomou & Manolis Siopis, Anastasios Bakasetas (Greece)
Mohamed Daramy, Nicolai Boilesen, Peter Ankersen, Rasmus Falk & Jens Stryger Larsen, Andreas Cornelius (Denmark)