Ståle Solbakken

Ståle: Experience can see us past Rijeka

F.C. Copenhagen manager Ståle Solbakken is hoping the raft of experience in his Lions squad will secure a UEFA Europa League playoff win over HNK Rijeka on Thursday.

FCK can progress to their 14th European group stage in the past 15 years if they overcome Rijeka in the one-off playoff tie in Parken Stadium.

"We have gradually built up a large bank of experience in European matches, where we have been extremely good in knockout matches for a very long time," said Ståle.

"We have qualified for 13 of the last 14 group stages, and if you add the percentage chances for that, then it is almost equal to zero.

"That experience is of course a great advantage.

"I expect we have a good opportunity to progress tomorrow, even if we do not have the same advantage at home as if we played with spectators. We meet a well and heavily organised Rijeka team who know all the tricks in the book, and that will make it really difficult for us."

Rijeka pose a threat
FCK have already bypassed IFK Gothenburg and Piast Gliwice to reach the Europa League playoff round this term.

And Ståle is aware of the threat Rijeka could bring on Thursday.

"They will probably be quite compact with a strong defensive organisation with big, strong players, and more dangerous on the counter," he said.

"But they also have both a midfielder and a striker who can do something extra, and they can easily punish us if we dwell or are not well organised."

"The key to winning are for me is to see initiative and pace, but also ensure that we are calm and patient and do not get stressed by it being decided in one match.

"Of course we must have our 'European defence' in place and preferably keep them down to just a couple of chances over the 90 minutes.

"They got their game postponed over the weekend, but I don't think it matters that much. It's more the Sunday games after a Thursday games that can be a challenge."

FCK team news
As for who could start on Thursday, Ståle confirmed that Rasmus Falk and Guillermo Varela will miss the tie, while others are being assessed.

"Falk is currently only running on a treadmill and is not included," Ståle said.

"But we have managed in important qualifying matches without him before, so hopefully it does not matter.

"Varela is not included either, his agent is in dialogue with a few clubs and we have said that under certain conditions it can happen and that process continues. In addition, there are a few players who need to be tested here for final training.

"Obviously we have had to work extra hard and we are doing everything we can. I think the mood in the squad is as it should be, but of course it is not super, because it will never be when you do not win football matches.

"But there is definitely a great desire to bounce back and everyone has taken to the challenge and no-one is passive, and that is the most important thing."