If there is one team in the Luxembourger First Division that can challenge F91 Dudelange for the title, it is AS Jeunesse Esch. Having finished just three points behind last season's champions and lost in extra time in the cup final, Esch will be out to make amends when their new campaign starts at FC Wiltz 71 on Sunday.
Esch have been the only side to break Dudelange's title-winning sequence in recent years though coach Sébastien Grandjean knows his squad face a tough task in catching Dudelange. "With a budget three times as much as ours, it will be tough to keep up with Dudelange as well as Differdange," he said. "However, just like last season, we will not bury our heads in the sand. We have a very young team and a lot of our youngsters are still going through a learning process, but this season they have to prove themselves."
Grandjean's charges were eliminated from the UEFA Europa League in the first qualifying round by Slovenia's NK Olimpija Ljubljana yet the coach is confident the experience will prove beneficial in the long term. "Olimpija was a great adventure and our young players learnt a lot," he said. "We could have got a better result in both matches [having lost 3-0 home and away], but unfortunately mistakes get punished at that level. Also, you saw how strong Slovenian football is when Dudelange lost to Maribor in the Champions League."
Although Dudelange trail the Slovenian title holders 4-1 after their UEFA Champions League third qualifying round first leg, Grandjean believes his rivals' defeat of FC Salzburg in the previous round was a momentous occasion for Luxembourger football. "It was a superb achievement by Dudelange," he said. "It was great for the reputation of football in Luxembourg, which has taken a significant step forward as you can tell by European results. However, you still have to distinguish between amateurs and professionals."
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