København v Atlético background
Having unexpectedly dropped out of the UEFA Champions League, Atlético Madrid begin their pursuit of a third UEFA Europa League title in the Danish capital, where they meet an FC København side bidding to make it through to the competition’s last 16 for the second year running.
• Atlético are the only previous UEFA Europa League winners active in the round of 32, the other four – Porto, Chelsea, Sevilla and holders Manchester United – having all progressed to the knockout phase of the UEFA Champions League.
• This is just one of two UEFA Europa League round of 32 ties in which the two teams have previously met, the other being Marseille-Braga.
• The European history between the two clubs comprises just a single match, which Atlético won 2-0 in Copenhagen in the 2007/08 UEFA Cup group stage thanks to a goal in either half from Simão and Sergio Agüero. Current København coach Ståle Solbakken was in charge of the hosts at the time, with Mexican Javier Aguirre leading Atlético to a victory that helped them through to the next round.
• København are yet to win in ten European matches against Spanish clubs, having drawn two and lost three both home and away.
• Atlético’s only other games against Danish opposition occurred in the 1974/75 UEFA Cup first round, when they won 6-3 on aggregate (2-3 away, 4-0 home) against Kjøbenhavns BK (KB for short) – one of the clubs that merged to form FC København in 1992.
• København qualified for the round of 32 as runners-up in Group F thanks to a superior head-to-head record over FC Sheriff, who they defeated 2-0 at home on matchday six.
• That victory over the Moldovan champions gave FCK a third straight clean sheet at home in the group stage, emulating their feat in last season’s UEFA Champions League group stage. Solbakken’s team have suffered only one defeat in their last 14 European games in Copenhagen, winning nine of them.
• UEFA Europa League victors in 2010 and 2012, Atlético are making their first appearance in the competition in five years. Since then Diego Simeone’s side have appeared in two UEFA Champions League finals and reached the quarter-finals and semi-finals in two other seasons.
• Atlético have won only two of their last nine European fixtures (D4 L3) and none of their last five on the road, scoring just two goals over the latter stretch. They did, however, draw all three away games in this season’s UEFA Champions League, at Roma (0-0), Qarabağ (0-0) and Chelsea (1-1).
• København are in the UEFA Cup/UEFA Europa League round of 32 for the fourth time. Their only success at this stage of the competition came last season when, having transferred over from the UEFA Champions League, they overcame Ludogorets Razgrad, a 2-1 win in Bulgaria preceding a goalless draw at Parken. They exited in the following round after losing 3-2 on aggregate to Ajax.
• Champions of Denmark in 2016/17, FCK were defeated on away goals by Qarabağ in this season’s UEFA Champions League play-offs, having eliminated Žilina and Vardar in the two previous qualifying rounds.
• Atlético finished third in the Spanish Liga last season, and this is only the second time in eight attempts that they have failed to progress beyond the group stage of the UEFA Champions League. However, on the only other occasion, in 2009/10, they went on to win the inaugural UEFA Europa League.
Links and trivia
• Midfielder William Kvist is a survivor, along with coach Solbakken, of the FCK side that lost to Atlético in the 2007/08 UEFA Cup.
• FCK’s Swedish goalkeeper Robin Olsen and Atlético’s French striker Antoine Griezmann faced each other twice in the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifiers; Griezmann did not score in either game, each ending in a 2-1 home win.
• Kvist and Griezmann are set to be in opposition at the World Cup finals in Russia as Denmark meet France in Moscow on 26 June.
• Seeking a third successive Danish Superliga title, FCK were down in sixth place, 18 points adrift of leaders FC Midtjylland, at the winter break.
• Ståle Solbakken’s second coaching tenure at København began in 2013. He has won seven Danish titles with FCK, five of those having come in his first spell from 2006 to 2011. The former Norway midfielder, who won 58 caps and scored nine goals for his country, appearing at both the 1998 FIFA World Cup and UEFA EURO 2000, has also been in charge of Köln and Wolverhampton.
• Diego Simeone has been the Atlético coach since December 2011, and has added five trophies to the club’s collection, including the 2011/12 UEFA Europa League, as well as steering the Madrid club to the UEFA Champions League finals of 2014 and 2016. The combative ex-Argentina midfielder also had two spells at Atlético as a player, winning the Spanish double in 1995/96.