To secure six more European matches, the F91 will have to hold their target tonight (8pm) at the Air Albania Stadium, where KF Tirana and an Albanian crowd await them.
Michel Teló for Mickaël Pinto, the new physical trainer of Brest (Ligue 1), Bob Marley for Aldin Skenderovic, the former captain of Progrès, and a few slightly more confidential titles – but that’s only because we hadn’t plugged in the microphone yet – for the younger ones: the F91 is no exception to tradition and, as tradition dictates, the little novices therefore pushed the song, Sunday evening at the table, during the meal that would conclude their first day in Tirana.
The atmosphere was cheerful, playful, the exact opposite of what awaits the Dudelangeois tonight in the Arena Kombëtare, Air Albania Stadium (theatre of the recent Conference League final Roma – Feyenoord) for the accountants, and everything we told the men of Carlos Fangueiro and Luxembourg football, it is still around 10 or 11 pm, after their first round of the Champions League on the grounds of KF Tirana.
To do this, they will have to withstand something more than the permanent nuisance – Sundays and evenings included – of the construction site in progress around their hotel and on some of the floors, even if it is quite unbearable: to hell promised by the local supporters, in the first place, and the one, likely, that an Albanian team, quite sure of its fact, will impose on them on the spot, if we are to believe his coach and the local press, despite the delay of a goal in the first leg (1-0).
In either case, the Dudelangeois are ready, assures Carlos Fangueiro, who expects a lot of pressure on both sides: “In terms of atmosphere, it could change us a lot. We are not used to playing in front of so many supporters and that can play on an emotional level. But I’ve been preparing my team for this for a few days now. We will be up against a team that will do everything it can to win the match and get through this round and have no choice but to adopt an aggressive strategy, push us higher.
Tirana confident… Fangueiro too
In that case, his men will “know what to do. And if they don’t rush us, we also know what to do.” The ground, supposedly much bigger than the Jos-Nosbaum playground? No problem either: “There are also large fields in Luxembourg, we also played in the national stadium, it has to be the same size.”
The optimism of Orges Shehi, his KF Tirana counterpart? Legitimate: “He’s a coach, he has confidence in his players, that’s normal. Like me.” The threat embodied by international attacking midfielder Redon Xhixha (18 goals in all competitions last season), subject to minor preferential treatment in the first leg according to the local press? Accessory: “I have not prepared anything special compared to some players “There will be no individual marking. We know what we want to do.”
Perhaps a bit exaggerated with our Albanian counterparts, the Dudelangeois technician’s confidence is real, despite the absence of his left-back and captain Mehdi Kirch, suspended after his yellow-red on his way out, and his hesitations on the post from the right, where Sylvio Ouassiero is not yet 100% physically and of which Eliot Gashi, volunteer to occupy it, is not a specialist.
“The available players are all 100% and highly motivated,” he says. Words expanded by Charles Morren, confident the team has grown since the elimination at 2e round of the Conference League by Irish Bohemian FC (0-1, 3-0) last year. “There are many new players and we only had three weeks to prepare for this match together. It is difficult to find automatisms, the Belgian midfielder admits, but we have learned from our mistakes and we have more maturity.”
Enough not to leave the house as soon as he gets into the league, as has been the case in the last five Champions League campaigns? If so, the F91 will secure at least six more European races and the sporting experience and financial windfall that comes with it. It’s worth putting yourself through 90 or 120 minutes of suffering.