MŠK Žilina of Slovakia may be daunting opponents, but captain Sébastien Remy feels Luxembourg's double winners F91 Dudelange are up to the task.
Slovakia's MŠK Žilina may be daunting UEFA Champions League first qualifying round opponents, but captain Sébastien Remy feels F91 Dudelange may be up to the challenge.
After successfully defending their league and cup titles in Luxembourg last season, Michel Leflochmoan's side have taken time off from their day jobs for a pre-season training camp in Umbria, Italy, and Remy - who is also a star of the Luxembourg national team - feels his side are bearing up well. "This is the best squad that I have ever seen at Dudelange," he said.
Clubs from Luxembourg may not enjoy a great reputation in European football, but Žilina may have to be on their guard after Dudelange returned from their trip to Italy refreshed following 3-0 and 8-0 wins against local opponents. "We were able to prepare in fantastic weather conditions and the stay in Italy was good for a quick integration of the numerous new players," said their French coach.
Dudelange did not feel that the draw for this stage was too kind to them. Board member Romain Schumacher said: "Žilina were one of the most difficult opponents in the draw. The standing of Slovakian football has improved in recent years." However, they are going into the match with hope in their hearts.
The two-legged tie will be Dudelange's 12th in Europe since making their continental debut with a 7-1 aggregate defeat by Maccabi Haifa FC in the 1993/94 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup. Last season they were knocked out of the UEFA Champions League first qualifying round 1-0 on aggregate by F.Y.R. Macedonia's FK Rabotnicki, but events in 2005/06 have given them reason for optimism.
Drawn against NK Zrinjski in the first qualifying round, they lost 1-0 at home only to win 4-0 after extra time in Bosnia-Herzegovina to set up a second qualifying round tie against SK Rapid Wien, which they would lose 9-3 on aggregate. It was their first - and to date, only - success in a European tie and one that has raised expectations.
Tonight's game against Žilina at the Jos Nosbaum Stadium is already being billed as Dudelange's match of the year. With a tie against the Czech Republic's SK Slavia Praha on offer for the winners, the Slovakian side can ill afford to take Dudelange's challenge lightly.