Preview: Copenhagen vs. Rakow Czestochowa

Preview: Copenhagen vs. Rakow Czestochowa

Danish side Copenhagen carry a 1-0 lead into the home leg of their Champions League playoff against Polish outfit Rakow Czestochowa on Wednesday.

Copenhagen are aiming for back-to-back seasons in the Champions League, while Rakow are hoping to make their debut in Europe’s premier club competition.

It is fair to say that Copenhagen can count themselves fortunate to have won the first leg in Poland last week, as the visitors managed to register a solitary attempt on target while struggling to get a foothold in the contest.

Ultimately, Bogdan Racovitan’s ninth-minute own goal proved to be the difference between the two sides in the first leg, despite the hosts creating multiple goalscoring opportunities while enjoying the lion’s share of possession.

Four days after the first leg, Copenhagen suffered a surprise 3-1 home defeat to Silkeborg, meaning that Jacob Neestrup’s men no longer boast a 100% record in the Danish Superliga, although they remain second in the standings on goal difference.

The Lions kicked off their domestic campaign with five straight wins, scoring 13 goals along the way while keeping two clean sheets for good measure, but they were brought back down to earth last time out.

Copenhagen’s Champions League qualifying journey began with an 8-3 aggregate victory over Icelandic club Breidablik, but Nesstrup’s side were pushed all the way by Sparta Prague in the previous round, drawing 3-3 before triumphing on penalties.

On the flip side, Rakow Czestochowa have already come through three qualifying rounds to reach the playoffs, with the Polish club’s Champions League journey starting back in early July.

After defeating Estonian side Flora in the first qualifying round, Rakow clinched a 4-3 aggregate win over Qarabag FK before dispatching Cypriot club Aris Limassol, setting up a playoff showdown with Copenhagen.

Under the guidance of former manager Marek Papszun, Rakow rose from the third tier of Polish football in 2016-17 before winning the second-tier title in 2018-19, but Medaliki were not content with simply making up the numbers in the top flight.

After finishing as runners-up in 2020-21 and 2021-22, Rakow Czestochowa secured their first-ever Ekstraklasa title last season, recording 23 wins, six draws and five losses to finish nine points clear of second-placed Legia Warsaw.

Surprisingly, Rakow and Papszun went their separate ways following the title triumph, meaning that 32-year-old manager Dawid Szwarga will aim to continue the Medaliki fairytale by taking the club to the promised land of the Champions League.

Copenhagen Champions League form:

Copenhagen form (all competitions):

Rakow Czestochowa Champions League form:

Rakow Czestochowa form (all competitions):

We say: Copenhagen 3-1 Rakow Czestochowa (Copenhagen to win 4-1 on aggregate)
Rakow Czestochowa will need to throw everything at Copenhagen in the second leg, but the visitors will likely leave themselves exposed at the back as they go for broke.

With that in mind, we can see Copenhagen completing the job in front of an expectant Parken crowd, ending Rakow’s fairytale run in the process.

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