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Europa League • F91 Dudelange-AC Milan Preview: The Big Kids Table



Often at family gatherings, the youngest children are relegated to sitting out of sight, out of mind at a small table. The goal for those children is to be “big” enough both physically and socially, to be able to sit at the “big kids” table. I assume that is what Dudelange feel like, making it to the Europa League Group Stage not only for the first time in their club’s history, but also being the first Luxembourgish team to do so. Whether or not they are ready for dinner is another question altogether. But congratulations, Dudelange. And welcome to the big kids table.

Let's have none of that on Thursday, please

F91 Dudelange was formed in 1991 by combining three separate teams in the city of Dudelange with the idea of strengthening them both financially and on the pitch. The team got to take the place of the highest ranking team, which was currently in the Luxembourg second division, amazingly known as the “Division of Honour.” That is 100% true. Why would anyone want to play in the first division, when they could play in the Division of Honour? It’s amazing.

Well they have won a lot of league titles and such in the Luxembourg top division, and have been working their way up in the Europa League, never finishing past the third round until this season. Having defeated CFR Cluj 5-2 on aggregate, they got invited to the big boys table in our group with Olympiakos and Real Betis. That’s some serious dinner right there.

Their fans are ready for us

When we head to Luxembourg on Thursday, I have no doubt we will face a very proud city and team. What their capabilities are on the pitch is another thing altogether. But after the first 25 minutes of our match on Sunday, what our capabilities are is also in question.

Dudelange currently sit twelfth in the Luxembourg top division with six points. They also have a couple of matches in hand, so that is actually misleading. However, they do only have six points from four games, so have either been distracted by the Europa League, or just not having their best season. Dino Toppmöller’s side defeated UNA Strassen on Sunday 2-0. For that match, he lined up Frising; Schnekk, Prempeh, Mélisse, Kruska, Stelvio, Stolz, Jordanov, Couturier, Sinani, and Turpel.

Will we see our boy wonder?

Milan, despite bringing back Maldini and changing ownership and all, are still being Milan. We had a tough game vs. Napoli, then a brilliant match vs. Roma, then raised eyebrows once again away to Cagliari on Sunday. Four points in three matches, not the start we were hoping for. And even if the Europa League is historically more of the little kids’ table for us, right now we could probably use a couple of big books to sit on to feel like we are ready for dinner there. Let’s hope we at least play well enough to be worthy of the Division of Honour.

One would expect Gattuso to exercise some kind of squad rotation on Thursday. Calhanoglu has a little finger injury, and Musacchio suffered some light head trauma, so those are two players who could easily start on the bench for good measure. Cutrone was coming off of an ankle sprain last week on international duty, but was rested on Sunday. It is entirely possible that Gattuso would rest Higuain and give Cutrone a start if he is fit. How many other starters he rests will be interesting to watch. His substitutions did nothing in the concept of impact on Sunday, and it could be painful to have to watch them for 90 minutes. There is a great chance that Reina will be our goalkeeper in Europe, as it is a good way to give him minutes while still playing his best keeper in the league.

Guessing we'll see our second string €3m keeper on Thursday

I mean no disrespect whatsoever when I welcome Dudelange to the big kids’ table. It is an amazing accomplishment for their club, their city, and their country. Which is why Milan must not take them for granted. Even if the other two teams in our group have more European history, it is always the new teams who are hungry and want to prove something. Beating a club with a history like Milan’s in their own house would be a legend for the to tell to their children, and that is precisely what they intend to do, I’m sure. Let’s hope that when dinner is served on Thursday, both teams are ready for the big kids’ table.


This post inspired by the music of STP’s “Big Bang Baby”


Europa League Group Stage
Dudelange vs. AC Milan
Thursday, September 20 • 21:00 CEST (3pm EDT)
This match will NOT be shown LIVE in the U.S.