UN Käerjéng 97 may have stolen their thunder in Europe, but when it comes to domestic football in Luxembourg, F91 Dudelange remain the team to beat.
While the title-holders lost out 7-5 on aggregate against Slovakian counterparts MŠK Zilina in the first qualifying round of the UEFA Champions League, Käerjéng knocked out Norway's Lillestrøm SK in the UEFA Cup to set up a second qualifying round tie against Belgium's R. Standard de Liège later this week.
That victory was greeted with joy by the modest club although coach Angelo Fiorucci was aware that their European milestone brought new pressures, saying: "We have to be careful at the start of the season and conserve our energy." Käerjéng lost 1-0 in their opening domestic game against Dudelange and then went down 5-1 to FC Swift Hesperange at the weekend.
Having won doubles in the last two seasons, Dudelange are already back on top of the table after following that win against Käerjéng with a 7-0 pummelling of FC Victoria Rosport. The summer saw the club bring in Luxembourg international Ben Payal as well as foreign players Laurent Guthleber, Samir Louadj and Emmanuel Coquelet and they look formidable again.
Dudelange coach Michel Leflochmoan was only too aware that his side again have the ammunition to deal all of their local rivals a decisive blow this season. "We have two players for each position," Leflochmoan said. "Some players left and we have tried to improve our squad. However we must wait and see how things turn out and if we can keep injuries away."
The champions are the only side to have won both of their league games to date although AS Jeunesse Esch can join them on six points if they win their game in hand against newcomers FC RM Hamm Benfica tonight. The most successful club in the history of football in Luxembourg, the 27-time title winners have a new coach this season, Jacques Muller, and have made a raft of new signings.
A win and a defeat in their opening two games suggest FC Differdange 03 might find it more difficult this season after following up their promotion with a third-placed finish last term. "I cannot tell whether our efforts in the UEFA Intertoto Cup will cost us," said coach Maurice Spitoni, who signed respected local players Kim Kintziger and Manuel Schauls in the summer.
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