(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Betar Jerusalem's Champions League dream will be on the line at the Parken Stadium in Denmark on Tuesday night.
Jerusalem visits Danish champion FC Copenhagen in the first leg of the Champions League second qualifying round and will be looking for a positive result ahead of next week's second leg at Teddy Stadium.
"Copenhagen is a good team, but so are we. I hope we play well and at the end of the tie advance to the next round," coach Yitzhak Schum said. "They're a very strong and organized team, but I think that we'll get the job done over the two matches."
Copenhagen played in the group stage of the Champions League for the first time in its history last year, stunning Dutch giants Ajax in the third qualifying round.
The team, which has claimed four of the last five Danish championships, picked up seven points in the group stage, defeating Manchester United and Rangers, and drawing with Benfica at the Parken Stadium.
"The match is wide open," Betar manager Giora Spiegel said. "The team is ready and all that is left is to see if the game unfolds as we planned. Our goal is to play well and to prove to the Danes and to ourselves that we're a good team."
Copenhagen's squad is brimming with talent, with veteran Jesper Gronkjaer the most recognizable name on the team. Gronkjaer, 29, played for Ajax, Chelsea, Atletico Madrid and Stuttgart before returning to his homeland last season.
The winger, who has played 65 times for the Danish national team, is joined in the side's attack by 33-year-old Swedish striker Marcus Allback. Allback has past experience in the Italian and German top divisions and also played for English club Aston Villa for two seasons (2002-2004).
Copenhagen's Norwegian coach StÃ¥le Solbakken made just two notable acquisitions in the off-season, signing Swedish defender Mikael Antonsson from Greek side Panathinaikos and Czech midfielder Libor Sionko.
"We're expecting a tough match, but this is a home tie and I hope we will be the better team and claim a good result because the second leg in Israel will be difficult," Solbakken said.
Copenhagen has only won one of its three opening 2007/08 league matches. The team lost its first game of the season and drew its second, but defeated bottom of the table Viborg FF 3-1 in its first home game of the season on Saturday.
Solbakken, however, is still not pleased with the way his team is playing and has yet to acquire adequate replacements for Denmark right-back Lars Jacobsen, who moved to FC NÃ¼rnberg, and Sweden midfielder Tobias Linderoth, who is now at Galatasaray SK.
"We have been suffering from a hangover since winning the championship earlier this summer," Solbakken told the UEFA Web site.
"We have probably looked at 50 right-backs but we have not found one who would fit into our system," added Solbakken, who will likely play midfielder William Kvist at right-back.
New 24-year-old forward Morten Nordstrand, who joined the club from FC NordsjÃ¦lland, scored two goals in his team's win on Saturday and is expected to be in the lineup once again against Betar.
I'm really looking forward to the matches against Betar but I don't know how I am going to react in those games as I have never played that kind of fixture before," he said.
Tvrtko Kale will start in goal for the Israeli champion after moving to Jerusalem from Maccabi Tel Aviv over the summer, with Arik Benado and Shimon Gershon expected to anchor the back four. New Chilean signing Christian Alvarez will play on the right side of defense, meaning Yoav Ziv will likely move to the left-back position.
Derek Boateng, Idan Tal and Gal Alberman are expected to play in the center of midfield, with Barak Itzhaki and Michael Zandberg attacking the Danish defense from the right and left respectively.
Toto Tamuz will probably start as the team's lone striker, with new Brazilian signing Romulo, who joined from Cruzeiro last week, on the substitute's bench.
"We need to fight for every ball and try and surprise our opponents and score a goal," Zandberg said. "It's very important not to concede and to score an away goal."