In Strasbourg, Europe is in the back of your mind

Racing approaches its clash against Lyon, scheduled for Sunday, in the shoes of a virtual qualified European. This fourth place, as provisional as it is deserved, reveals a slow rise in power for the team coached by Julien Stéphan, who can now, before a delicate final rush, dream of Europe. Such a consecration would only be fair for this historic club and in view of its career this season. And a great service rendered to French football.

Racing is having an exceptional season. If, for a long time, the performances of the Alsatian club have remained under the radar of most commentators, focused on Marseille, Nice or Rennes, its current position in ambush is ultimately not surprising. This success must first be measured against a budget (45 million euros) twice lower than that of the SRFC, and four times lower than those of OM or OL, without even mentioning PSG. . To those who would also see it as the result of a “Maginot Line” syndrome, i.e. a solid defense which allows them to be outclassed, we will retort that Racing has the third attack in the championship and that the faithful public of La Meinau greeted more goals than 17 other Ligue 1 stadiums, including the Vélodrome. Strasbourg offers a good lesson in things to a Ligue 1 obsessed with the sale of its TV rights, in particular internationally via its commercial company (and its investment fund returned to the capital), even tense on the crisis that its head is going through of Parisian gondola. However, anyone who loves this sport knows that a real football nation needs this profile of clubs, these venerable institutions which sometimes manage to sit at the table of high authorities.

reason to keep

Philippe Wolf, president of the Racing supporters’ federation, is in any case savoring this year 2022 as it should be, while keeping his feet and the megaphone on the ground. “We already had to get used to the new idea that we were able to string together very solid performances week after week, which took time because we weren’t really used to it.reports the Alsatian. I think we are in our place today, which does not mean that it will stay like this until the end of the season, and that the supporters, after having dreamed about it for several weeks, say to themselves that we now concretely, really, has a real chance of finishing in the European places. On the other hand, we don’t talk too much about the Champions League, it always seems inaccessible. »

After previous seasons entirely focused on maintaining, sometimes snatched on the last day by a miraculous free kick, the slow reconstruction of a Racing, which now weighs among its peers and regains its rank after having almost disappeared, therefore seems on the point to succeed. Admittedly, the 2019 French Cup had made it possible to head back to continental level, but the adventure had stopped at the C3 play-offs against Eintracht Frankfurt. To taste Europe again, moreover after having snatched its place in the championship, would take on a sweet scent of recognition, almost of revenge. The return of Kevin Gameiro, who took part in the European adventure in 2005 (with a double against Red Star Belgrade) and who shines on the pitch as a loyal soldier in the jersey, seems to confirm the alignment of the stars in above the Rhine. With the implicit hope that some prestigious names from the Old Continent, even if they were former executioners like Manchester United in 1965 or Ajax in 1980, come out of a draw hat. Liverpool FC’s exit from the UEFA Cup after a 3-0 home win with a David Zitelli brace is still fresh in the memory.

Nevertheless, in the stands, the mood remains modest. “The club already played a few European Cup matches two years ago, although it was only preliminary roundsrecalls Philippe Wolf. The Meinau had been very hot, especially during the reception of Frankfurt. I don’t think you need Europe to fully experience a season at La Meinau, but obviously that makes you really want to. Beyond this option, which will or will not materialize within a month, it above all validates the progress of the club. In this sense, we do not hope to reconnect with the past which was mainly made up of (very) highs and (very) lows. The real evolution, the real consecration, would be to be able to stay in the top 10 of Ligue 1 in the long term. »

The main obstacle, and which gives all its importance to the arrival of Les Gones, remains indeed a rather difficult schedule. The trip on the last day to Marseille, which will perhaps defend its direct qualifying place in C1, will surely shine like a perilous apotheosis. The recent past has illustrated the ability of Strasbourg to transcend themselves when it comes to avoiding relegation or to trip up the big cars (Neymar’s PSG in 2017, for example). Will they be able to do the same when every point counts to reach the European summits? Response in the coming weeks.

By Nicolas Kssis-Martov

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