Luxembourg’s F91 Dudelange bid farewell to a first UEFA Europa League group campaign that has brought five defeats but plenty of dogged determination. They will hope to sign off in style against unbeaten Real Betis, whose place in the knockout phase is already secure and who are now looking to go through as Group F winners.
• Dudelange almost caused a sensation on matchday five when they led seven-time European champions AC Milan 2-1 at San Siro midway through the second half, but they eventually ran out of steam. The 5-2 defeat was their fifth out of five and the second game in a row in which they had conceded five goals. Their 16 goals against is the highest in the group stage.
• Betis booked their round of 32 ticket by beating Olympiacos 1-0 in Seville last time out. They have taken four points off both the Greek side and Milan and will top the group with a win against Dudelange, or if the Rossoneri do not win in Piraeus.
• Betis had never faced a team from Luxembourg, nor had Dudelange encountered opposition from Spain, before the club’s matchday two meeting in Seville, which the Andalusian club won 3-0 with three second-half goals.
• The premier force in Luxembourg since the turn of the millennium, Dudelange won their 14th national championship last season, completing a hat-trick of titles. They narrowly lost this season’s UEFA Champions League first qualifying round tie against Hungary’s Vidi but made historic amends by subsequently overcoming Drita, Legia Warszawa and, in the play-offs, CFR Cluj to reach the UEFA Europa League group stage.
• Dudelange’s previous best European performance came in 2012/13, when they reached the UEFA Champions League third qualifying round before falling to Hapoel Tel-Aviv in the UEFA Europa League play-offs (1-3 home, 0-4 away).
• Since then Dudelange have lost only three of 11 home games in Europe (W3 D5) and although they have drawn blanks in both group games against Milan (0-1) and Olympiacos (0-2), they did find the net twice in all three home fixtures in this season’s UEFA Europa League qualifying phase (W2 D1).
• Betis finished one place and two points above Sevilla in last season’s Liga to clinch an automatic UEFA Europa League group stage spot at their city rivals’ expense.
• Prior to this season, Betis’s last opponents in Europe were Sevilla, and it was a painful experience as they lost to the eventual winners on penalties in the 2013/14 UEFA Europa League round of 16. That was the club’s first European adventure in eight years, their six group games featuring just five goals in total but the three they scored proving sufficient to take them into the round of 32. There they overcame Rubin 3-1 on aggregate before the dramatic all-Seville contest in which both clubs won 2-0 at their opponents’ stadium.
• Betis have lost only one of their last nine European away games, winning five, including 2-1 at Milan on matchday three, and have not conceded more than once in any match during that stretch, keeping five clean sheets.
Links and trivia
• Dudelange are one of five clubs playing in the UEFA Europe League proper for the first time this season – and the very first from Luxembourg, the 39th nation to be represented in the competition’s group stage.
• Dudelange are also one of three clubs yet to record a point in this season’s UEFA Europa League group stage – alongside Rosenborg (Group B) and fellow debutants Akhisar (J). Only four teams have ever exited the competition after losing all six group games – Shamrock Rovers (2011/12), Metalist Kharkiv (2014/15), Slovan Bratislava (2014/15) and Gabala (2016/17).
• The son of Klaus Toppmöller, the coach who led Bayer Leverkusen to the 2002 UEFA Champions League final, Dino had a lengthy career in Germany’s lower leagues before ending it as a player-coach with Luxembourg side Hamm Benfica. Having steered the club to promotion, he joined Dudelange in 2016 and promptly won the Luxembourg double, adding a second league title in 2017/18 and then defying the odds to mastermind a landmark qualification for the UEFA Europa League group stage.
• A former midfielder capped three times by Spain, Santander-born Quique Setién spent most of his playing career with home-town club Real Racing Club, his two lengthy spells there interrupted by shorter stints at Atlético Madrid and Logroñés. His coaching career also began at Racing and eventually prospered in the Canary Islands with Las Palmas. He returned to the Spanish mainland to take charge of Betis in May 2017, leading the Seville club to sixth spot in the Liga at the end of his first season.