Racing honoured to be in the chase

Juan Ramón López Muñiz told it is "a privilege" for Real Racing Club Santander to be playing in the UEFA Cup as they look to book a group-stage berth in their decider against Finland's FC Honka Espoo.

Jonathan Pereira (top) celebrates a Racing goal
Jonathan Pereira (top) celebrates a Racing goal ©Getty Images

First target
Having won the home match 1-0, the Spanish side will look to extend their first ever UEFA Cup campaign in Finland tonight, with the 39-year-old coach telling "We want to get past the first round. If we get to the group stage we'll see what happens. Playing in the UEFA Cup is a historic occasion and one to enjoy. People go through their whole footballing lives and don't get the chance to take part in a European competition so it's a privilege for us to be here."

Unforgiving schedule
López Muñiz replaced Marcelino García Toral this summer, after his predecessor took over at Real Zaragoza, and was thrown to the wolves by the fixture computer in his first few domestic games. The former Sporting Gijón and Rayo Vallecano defender perhaps unsurprisingly managed to guide his new charges to just two points from meetings with Sevilla FC, FC Barcelona, Real Madrid CF and Villarreal CF. "The fixture list is tough and can have a mental affect but Racing have always stood up for themselves," he said.

No comparison
The pragmatic coach insists Racing's first priority is "to remain in the top flight", but his side's modest standing has drawn parallels with Getafe CF, who reached last season's quarter-finals. A former assistant to Juande Ramos, who won back-to-back UEFA Cup titles with Sevilla FC, López Muñiz is not moved by such talk. "We shouldn't draw comparisons with other teams," he said, adding of the first leg against Honka: "We created lots of chances and had a lot of possession. The only thing that was missing was another goal."

Youth policy
On-loan attacker Jonathan, 21, scored the only goal in the opener, which saw him fielded along with 19-year-old Eduardo Bedía and 17-year-old Canales – a measure of López Muñiz's faith in the club's youth policy. "We have to allow these young players to develop little by little so they can become footballers at the highest level in the future," said the ex-Málaga CF coach. "If you're counting on youngsters then you have to give them time. We have to be careful not to overload these guys with games, but it's difficult as we have a small squad." However, he would not pass up the chance of adding a few more fixtures in the UEFA Cup.