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Football: Perfect warm-up for cup finalists

Lausanne and FC Zurich have both enjoyed important league wins, five days before meeting each other in this year's Swiss Cup final.

Lausanne beat Neuchatel Xamax 2-1 away to guarantee themselves a place in next season's UEFA cup. Zurich, meanwhile, showed great spirit to beat Thun by the same scoreline at the Letzigrund.

Gilbert Gress's side, who are fighting to retain their place in Switzerland's National League A, were 1-0 down with just ten minutes to go. But two goals from their South African striker, Shaun Bartlett, were enough to turn the game around and lift Zurich four points clear of the relegation line.

An on-form Shaun Bartlett will be something for Lausanne to worry about on Sunday. The South African stole the headlines earlier this month, scoring three goals in the cup semi-final as Zurich crushed Lucerne 7-2.

On Tuesday night, though, Lausanne's only thoughts were of Europe and they wasted little time in staking their claim. With just five minutes gone Fabio Celestini put the visitors ahead. Neuchatel were able to get back in the game thanks to a penalty put away by Martinovic. But ten minutes after the break, Marcin Kuzba scored the goal that decided more than just the match.

Having climbed into second place, Lausanne can no longer be caught by fourth-placed Grasshoppers Zurich. And with the championship having already gone to Sankt Gallen, Pierre-Alain Schürmann's side now have only the cup to concentrate on.

Grasshoppers can now only make the top three by catching Basel, but that would require Grasshoppers to win all of their last three games, while Basel lose all theirs. But after having the main route to Europe blocked off by Lausanne, Grasshoppers could now find a back way in - thanks to Lausanne!

The Grasshoppers fans will be hoping for an FC Zurich defeat in the cup final on Sunday, and not just for reasons of traditional city rivalry. If Lausanne win the showdown in Berne, having already qualified for Europe via the league, their 'second' qualification spot would go to the team who finish fourth in the league, which is almost certain to be Grasshoppers.

Whatever happens at the Wankdorf this weekend, you can be sure that the whole of Zurich will be watching.

by Mark Ledsom

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