They may have been knocked off the Division Nationale summit by champions F91 Dudelange in their last outing, but FC Differdange 03 have come a long way so quickly that even coach Roland Schaak is struggling to keep up.
Dudelange simply proved too powerful for Differdange on 6 October, easing to a 4-1 victory. It was a result many would have predicted during the summer: the side that has claimed the last four Luxembourg titles overpowering the team that finished seventh in last year's standings, a club not even in the top flight three years ago. Yet few would have expected that the three points would only be enough to edge Dudelange past Differdange and gain top spot on goal difference, as Schaack's side have emerged as genuine title contenders this season.
Schaak has wasted little time in making his mark at Differdange after stepping down as coach of Luxembourg Under-21s during the summer. "I was looking for a new stimulus and found it," said the 35-year-old former international defender. "Thanks to team spirit and a collective mentality, not to mention the best preparations, everything was in place to bring us towards the top. I never imagined Differdange would be at the top of the table though."
An impressive 12 goals from Pierre Piskor have certainly helped, though when the traditional hunters found themselves cast as the hunted last time out, Dudelange showed there is still room for improvement. "Over the long haul, the Dudelange players will find their consistency as they have a balanced squad," predicted Differdange captain Jean Wagner, who is hoping for another taste of European action come next season having been a member of the side that reached the UEFA Intertoto Cup last term.
That came after a third-placed finish in Division Nationale, and Schaak is hopeful of emulating, if not betting that feat of two seasons ago come May. "The first few games cost us a lot of energy," said the former AS Jeunesse Esch man. "We do not really have the ability to maintain such a high level of fitness throughout the entire season. If we were able to maintain our position near the top of the table, it will certainly encourage us to keep pushing."
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