Only one full set of games is yet to be played before the winter break commences for the next approximately three months. Some teams have solidified their positions in the table, but others are still bringing up more questions than answers with their performances. Here’s more on what happened in the BGL Ligue last week!
The league table is taking on a more consistent shape nearing the break, as all teams have now caught up with the rest of the pack in the number of games played, after every previously postponed match was finally played (or in Mondorf vs Rosport’s case, replayed) last mid-week.
The winners of the week are arguably US Mondorf, who have racked up two wins and two clean sheets en route to a confident march towards mid-table, following a disappointing run of games last month that took them as low as the relegation zone after the first 13 games.
Goals from striker Oumar Gassama in both games were especially important in gaining some momentum for the Angry Goats before the curtain-raiser of the calendar year away at Fola Esch.
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Fola Esch, meanwhile, have experienced their own share of troubles for the past two seasons, struggling to ever get a hold on the league and build up any encouraging form. They have been lagging behind the rest all season this time around, and they will officially be staying in the red zone for the entire winter after their recent loss to relegation rivals UN Käerjéng.
The only thing fans of the oldest club in Luxembourg might find respite in for now is the fact that their city rivals do not have many bragging rights themselves. Jeunesse Esch find themselves second from bottom, above only Fola, after a loss to Marisca Mersch and a draw against Union Titus Pétange this week.
The blip has come rather unexpectedly for Jeunesse after a summer of (seemingly) systematic build-up with player transfers and a return to the recipe of the good old days by appointing Marc Thomé for a second stint at the helm.
However, things never clicked for the team. They showed flashes of promise but it was obvious from early on that improvement from the pre-Thomé era should not really be expected yet.
Soon after, Thomé became the first manager to be sacked in the country this season, when his board parted ways with him after a 3-3 draw vs Schifflange.
Results haven’t exactly picked up since then, as the club have been winless in the league for 10 matchdays, a streak dating back to the end of August.
This interesting situation begs the question about whether something truly historical would happen after this season: could next year be the first edition of a National Division in Luxembourg to kick off without a single team from the city of Esch-sur-Alzette?
The short answer is: yes, absolutely. Bear with me: in Fola’s case, they already have a 6-point gap to bridge and as the team who are doing the worst in just about any relevant statistic so far, it is hard to envision any sudden change in their fortunes, as this would require an uncharacteristically miraculous set of results from them.
Considering the way Jeunesse are playing at the moment, it is entirely imaginable that the record champions will finish below the line come May. Looking at the xG metric (based on the widely recognised Expected Goals concept), Jeunesse Esch are expected to be in 14th position out of 16 according to the chances they have created and conceded (above Käerjéng and Fola).
The above statistic goes to show that although, Jeunesse really are doing horribly so far, it is by no means a result of some chronic bad luck when it comes to finishing. Instead, their performances so far are barely placing them over strugglers Fola.
Another important note to consider is that there is no way anyone from the city can participate in the first tier in the event of both Fola and Jeunesse failing to stay up. There are currently no teams in the second division from the city to get promoted, and thus provide a glimmer of hope.
Luckily, there are many teams in the surrounding area (exactly half of the competing BGL Ligue teams are located in the canton of Esch-sur-Alzette). But if the city’s residents wish to cheer on one of their own historical giants – either the oldest club or the one with the most titles to date – they should start praying for better times ahead, especially for Jeunesse, who look to be involved in an intense relegation scrap in the spring season.
Risky decisions pay off for extravagant Racing Club
Racing Union Luxembourg’s board of directors might have struck a few surprises in the summer, when they announced the arrival of a new director of the academy in former Belgian international Aline Zeler. Her appointment was the first in a number of moves that made waves, including hiring a new head coach in 29-year old Marco Martino.
Since Martino’s arrival, the club was able to cut down on its salary expenses by letting some of the more experienced players leave (such as Kévin Nakache or Jonathan Hennetier) and instead focus on recruiting some of the brightest-shining talents in the country.
The aging stars of the team are still shouldering much of the attacking burden (as Edvin Muratović and Andreas Buch lead the scoring charts within the club), but that is exactly what is providing the perfect pathway for the youth stars to flourish.
Last weekend, Racing beat Mondercange 4-0 away from home to jump to fifth place, only three behind Progrès Niederkorn. These are dizzying heights for a team and manager as young and inexperienced as this one. The cherry on top for the latest victory, though, was news of another debutant: winger Bruno Giesteira, 16, came off the bench with nine minutes to help his team keep the four-goal lead.
Financial problems were one part of the reason why the club eventually decided to restructure its philosophy, but if they continue on the current path, the profits raised on some of these talents could easily be worth the risk of ditching a more standard approach of buying more well-known names.
No worthy challengers for Differdange
Having an unbeaten champion is always on the cards in Luxembourg, where a team or two start the season in a devastating fashion on a yearly basis, only for their form to slowly unfold after a couple of months.
The latest examples are FC Differdange 03, who have achieved nine wins and five draws in their first 14 games, and retain a tremendous chance of a first league title since 2005/06.
The newest victims of FCD’s rampant form are Niederkorn, who were themselves having a decent run of games, occupying a podium spot for the whole season before their recent loss. The derby was regarded by both teams as an ideal opportunity to strengthen their case for a title win.
Niederkorn ended up taking the lead within the first five minutes courtesy of a strike from Kenny Mixtur, before Differdange managed to turn the game around on the cusp of half-time. Another goal right after the beginning of the second 45 further enhanced FCD’s lead, and the result was never in question for the remainder of the game.
The two attacking additions, Jorginho (10 goals, 1 assist in 13 games) and Kenny Nagera (6 goals, 2 assists in 9 games) provided a spark that was somehow missing from previous iterations of the Differdange squad. With the current setup, they have every reason to be hopeful about their chances.
Across the pitches
Marisca Mersch continued their sparkling form with a valuable 2-2 draw against Swift Hesper. The draw marks the first time Roland Vrabec’s side dropped points since the German manager took over the reigning champions.
Rosport’s miserable run of form continues as they limped to a 3-0 defeat in Dudelange. F91 continue their impressive early-season form and maintained their 3-point deficit to leaders Differdange, establishing themselves as the biggest competitors for the title.
The teams are next in action this Saturday and Sunday for the last time in 2023. As always, the games’ live commentaries, highlights and full video footage are all available on RTL.lu’s Live Arena hub.
All the results and goal scorers
FC Déifferdeng 03 - Progrès Nidderkuer 3:1
0:1 Mixtur (5'), 1:1 Trani (25'), 2:1 Costa Monteiro (Jorginho) (45'), 3:1 Costa Monteiro (Jorginho) (46')
F91 Diddeleng - Victoria Rouspert 3:0
1:0 Hadji (14'), 2:0 Agovic (59'), 3:0 Agovic (79')
UN Käerjeng 97 - Fola Esch 2:1
1:0 Tawaba (64', Eegegol), 1:1 Diallo (70'), 2:1 Lopes (75')
US Munneref - FC Wolz 2:0
1:0 Taarimte (76'), 2:0 Gassama (90'+5)
UNA Stroossen - FC Schëffleng 95 1:0
1:0 Perez (83')