Two giants of the French game languishing in mid-table meet at the Stade Pierre-Mauroy on Sunday lunchtime as Lille play host to Lyon.
The reigning champions currently occupy 11th spot in the standings – one place and one point better off than their recently-sanctioned opponents, who do have a game in hand.
Amid his struggles to replicate the successes of his predecessor Christophe Galtier, Jocelyn Gourvennec appeared to be preparing his side for a swift exit from the Champions League, but Lille have turned on the style in recent weeks.
Travelling to an out-of-sorts Wolfsburg on the final matchday presented Lille with the ideal opportunity to cement their position at the top of Group G, and Les Dogues made sure of their place in the last-16 as Burak Yilmaz, Jonathan David and Angel Gomes all struck in a 3-1 triumph.
Les Dogues’ eye-catching win at the Volkswagen Arena came four days after they marched to a second consecutive win in Ligue 1 – this time 2-1 against Troyes – and in a sudden upturn in fortunes, Lille have now won three on the bounce in all competitions.
The reigning Ligue 1 champions are still a far cry from where they were in Ligue 1 12 months ago, as they sit 11th in the table – some 18 points behind runaway leaders Paris Saint-Germain – but only five points separate them from Marseille in third.
Such is the tightly-fought nature of the table that Lille could steer themselves right back into European contention with a couple more positive results, and victory at Wolfsburg stretched their unbeaten run across all tournaments to eight matches, and they have not suffered defeat at home since August.
Docked a point, forced to play two home games behind closed doors and struggling for consistency in Ligue 1 and the Europa League, it is hardly sunshine and rainbows for Lyon heading into the festive period.
Four days after being held to a 2-2 draw by an out-of-sorts Bordeaux outfit in Ligue 1, Lyon dropped points for the first time in the 2021-22 Europa League against Rangers, as Scott Wright’s opener just before the break was cancelled out by Calvin Bassey’s own goal.
Lyon had already comfortably booked their spot in the last 32 before the visit of Rangers, but the sanctions imposed on them following the Dimitri Payet bottle-throwing incident against Marseille means that their task to rise into the top half of the rankings in Ligue 1 has been made that little bit more difficult.
As previously mentioned, though, the tight nature of the table means that Lyon are only six points adrift of the top three, but a sticky spell in Ligue 1 has seen Peter Bosz’s side win just two of their last six top-flight games, as well as a mere two away from home all season.
Furthermore, Lyon are winless in their last nine Ligue 1 encounters with Lyon since prevailing 1-0 in November 2016, with the champions claiming a hard-fought 3-2 away win last term following a 1-1 draw at the Stade Pierre-Mauroy.
Lille Ligue 1 form:
Lille form (all competitions):
Lyon Ligue 1 form:
Lyon form (all competitions):
We say: Lille 2-0 Lyon
With injury concerns in defence and no Paqueta available, an inconsistent Lyon side could be in for a long afternoon at the home of a rejuvenated Lille outfit.
The hosts have also had more time to recover from their European exploits and very rarely fail to produce the goods in front of their own fans, so we have faith in Les Dogues to get over the line with minimal difficulty.