CS Fola Esch were celebrating their first Luxembourger league title in 83 years a few weeks ago after a sensational 5-1 victory against rivals AS Jeunesse Esch. Now the title holders are preparing for the UEFA Champions League second qualifying round.
Hailing from a town with a population of just 30,000, Fola's reward for domestic glory is a tie against Croatian giants GNK Dinamo Zagreb. German midfielder Jakob Dallevedove is relishing the prospect of testing himself against a side who made it to the group stage last term and have previously boasted the likes of Zvonimir Boban, Davor Šuker, Luka Modrić and Mario Mandžukić among their ranks.
"It is a great experience," said Dallevedove who has scored 25 goals in 78 league games over four season at the club. "I have already played in Europa League qualifying, but we were eliminated by Elfsborg. Before the draw this season, the coach told us that we have to reach the next round but we have been drawn against Dinamo Zagreb, who are one of the most difficult opponents possible."
Dinamo are almost certainly favourites to progress over two legs but Fola can take heart from the recent accomplishments of the Luxembourg national team and their league rivals in UEFA Europa League qualifying. Luxembourg have secured three draws in FIFA World Cup qualifying Group F this year while FC Differdange 03 and Jeunesse Esch progressed to the second round of UEFA Europa League qualifying last week. Fola will also take motivation from F91 Dudelange, who caused a stir when they eliminated Austrian side FC Salzburg this time last year.
"Each team has weaknesses and we will aim to take advantage of them," said Luxembourg forward Stefano Bensi. "We want to go to the next round. If we stick to the plan from pre-season, we definitely have a chance. We will give it a good go. As a true footballer, you won't be happy with a draw, so we're going for a win on Tuesday."
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