Franck Haise’s side can still be considered title challengers thanks to last weekend’s 2-1 triumph over Marseille, while Will Still’s side returned to winning ways by overcoming Lille 1-0 last weekend.
Both aiming to capitalise on an increasingly familiar Paris Saint-Germain wobble from the previous gameweek, Lens’ podium battle with Marseille at the Stade Bollaert-Delelis lived up to the billing, and it was only fitting for such a contest to begin with a Seko Fofana thunderbolt into the bottom corner.
Who else but Lois Openda would double Les Sang et Or’s lead on the hour mark – heading home his 19th goal of the season – before Dimitri Payet bundled the ball over the line to set up a nail-biting finale, one in which Haise’s men stood firm and held on for maximum points.
Thanks to a third win on the bounce in the top flight, Lens have usurped Marseille into second place in the table, but the gap to PSG in first place remains at six points courtesy of the champions’ 3-1 success against Troyes – title glory is still mathematically possible for Les Sang et Or, but few will expect PSG to falter in their upcoming showdowns with Ajaccio, Auxerre and Strasbourg.
In any case, Lens are already guaranteed a top-four finish and a spot on the continent next term, while Monaco – the closest challengers to their Champions League berth – are eight points worse off than Haise’s men, a true testament to the work of a manager who was recently hailed as the best in Ligue 1 by Thierry Henry.
By far and away the best-performing home team in Ligue 1 this season, Lens have dropped just five points from their 17 games at the Stade Bollaert-Delelis – winning 15 contests in total, including each of their last four – although Reims make the journey north in high spirits as well.
Inexplicable misses were the theme when Reims welcomed Lille to the Stade Auguste-Delaune last weekend, as Will Still’s side took advantage of another underwhelming away performance from Les Dogues to snap a four-game winless streak.
After 18-goal attacker Folarin Balogun could only chip the ball onto the crossbar from a few yards out, Marshall Munetsi spared his teammate’s blushes by heading home the rebound, but Reims were counting their lucky stars and then some when Remy Cabella somehow missed from a yard out with the goal gaping.
Les Rouges et Blancs’ European aspirations may slowly be fading away, but the 10th-placed hosts can no doubt feel satisfied with their exploits under the trailblazing Still over the past few months as they enjoy a simple stroll to the finish line.
Munetsi’s header also broke a three-game scoreless streak and four-match run without a clean sheet for Reims, whose next task will be to avoid a third successive away defeat following recent beatings at the hands of Clermont and Rennes, but not since April 2016 have they suffered a trio of consecutive top-flight losses on the road.
The 10 men of Lens were held to a 1-1 draw when they visited the Stade Auguste-Delaune to tackle Reims last September, but that hard-fought stalemate stretched the visitors’ winless run against Les Sang et Or to five games since a 2-0 Coupe de France triumph in January 2019.
Lens Ligue 1 form:
Reims Ligue 1 form:
We say: Lens 2-0 Reims
Had Cabella not tapped the ball into the grateful gloves of Yehvann Diouf when it seemed harder to miss, Reims would not have come away from their clash with Lille unscathed, and they are unlikely to experience such good fortune versus Lens.
The re-introduction of Abdul Samed will only add to Les Sang et Or’s midfield steel, and with Openda still finding the back of the net for fun, Lens should take another giant step towards Champions League qualification with a straightforward victory.