Copenhagen have what it takes to shock Atalanta in the Europa League, according to Denmark international defender Nicolai Boilsen.
The 26-year-old has played at the highest level with Ajax, having claimed four Eredivisie titles in the past, and while he appreciates the challenge the Serie A club offer, he does not see them as an insurmountable obstacle.
Ahead of the trip to Italy on Thursday, he was bullish about their prospects, having already eliminated KuPS, Stjarnan and Spartak Subotica.
“We respect Atalanta, and we all know about the high quality of Serie A as one of the best leagues in the world, so we expect a super difficult opponent,” he told Goal. “Atalanta has also shown good qualities in recent seasons in Europa League, but it does not change out ambition, our goal. We want to beat them and qualify for the group stage again.
“We can win. Of course we believe that. If we perform on our best level, we will definitely make it difficult for Atalanta.
“It is a difficult last hurdle, but we want to get into the group phase. We have a good squad this season. Quite a lot of us have experience from the Danish national team, and then obviously we have some interesting players from other countries as well. At FC Copenhagen we like to see ourselves as an international club based in Denmark.”
Indeed, Boilesen believes that his club is of the stature to play in the pool phase.
“We have big ambitions, and FC Copenhagen belong in the group stage,” he said. “History shows that, having played in the group stages in 11 of the last 12 seasons, and so does our current form and level.
“We have not lost for nine games, winning eight of them, and we have moved to a higher level than last season, when we actually qualified from the Europa League group for the knockout stage, then were unfortunate to be drawn against a true top team like Atletico Madrid.”
On a personal level, Boilesen’s strong form has seen him called into the Denmark national side for forthcoming matches against Slovakia and Wales, having painfully missed out on the World Cup, but he was impressed by what his colleagues achieved in Russia.
“It is always an honour to represent your country,” he said. “I received my education as a football player on international level with Ajax and with the Denmark national team, and that is the level where I feel, that I belong.
“Denmark did well at the World Cup, reaching the knockout phase and only losing on penalties against Croatia, but now it is a new start, and we are all looking forward to that.”
Boilesen, who has 17 caps for his country, beat off competition from the likes of Riza Durmisi, who has just moved from Betis to Lazio, for a place in the squad.
Viktor Fischer is his only Copenhagen team-mate in the squad for the September fixtures, but Peter Ankersen, Rasmus Falk, Andreas Bjelland, William Kvist, Nicolaj Thomsen, Bashkim Kadrii and Stephan Andersen all have top-level international experience they hope can lend a hand to ousting Atalanta.