FC Racing Union Luxembourg have wrapped up the race for second place in Luxembourg with coach Álvaro Cruz proving an inspirational voice in recent weeks.
A 1-0 win against FC Progrès Niedercorn at the weekend, combined with AS Jeunesse Esch's 1-1 draw at FC Swift Hesperange, saw Racing open up a five-point lead over the third-placed side with just one game left to play. They may remain a massive 21 points behind champions F91 Dudelange, but the club are now looking forward to their first appearance in the UEFA Cup – and have avoided a trip to Georgia.
A third-placed finish would have offered Racing the chance to play against a representative from the Georgian league in the UEFA Intertoto Cup this summer, but their 44-year-old coach admitted it was a relief to have eliminated that possibility, saying: "We didn't want to get involved until July and would rather not have gone to Georgia to play in the UEFA Intertoto Cup in June."
The coach has proved an inspirational presence in recent weeks, lifting his side after a run of three league draws to victories in their last two games against FC RM Hamm Benfica and Progrès. "Every player will have to ask questions of himself in the coming weeks," he said. "We need to harness all of our energy. We have to justify our ambitions and present ourselves more courageously."
Racing's success spells a European calamity for Jeunesse Esch, who failed to register for the Intertoto Cup. FC Etzella Ettelbrück, fourth in the table, will be the beneficiaries of that slip-up, having ensured that fifth-placed FC Avenir Beggen cannot catch them with a 2-0 win against their rivals on Saturday. They could yet steal third place from Jeunesse Esch in the final round of the season.
Another European place will be up for grabs in the Luxembourg Cup final on 24 May, with Dudelange's unexpected quarter-final exit against CS Pétange – who are resigned to relegation from the Division Nationale – opening the way for four clubs to compete for a UEFA Cup place. Hamm, CS Grevenmacher and FC Victoria Rosport complete the semi-final lineup.
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