LOSC Lille will be hoping to retain their place at the top of the Ligue 1 table when they lock horns with Metz on Friday.

LOSC Lille’s narrow 1-0 triumph over Paris Saint-Germain last weekend was a vital result in the context of the Ligue 1 title race. It helped them regain their place at the top of the table, opening up a healthy three-point lead over their closest competitors as well as the chasing pack including AS Monaco and Lyon.

With seven matches still yet to be played, though, Lille need to maintain their level of performance which could be tested when they travel to Stade Saint-Symphorien to face Metz on Friday.

Les Dogues did look shaky heading against smaller teams heading into their fixture last weekend against PSG. And while they still do possess the best defensive record in the league, it will be a challenge for them to find the breakthrough against a Metz side that do boast a relatively strong defence.

Metz have not enjoyed a great run of form recently, but they are more than capable of holding their own against the best of teams. In fact, Lille required a late goal from Luiz Araujo to seal a narrow 1-0 victory in the reverse fixture, so this could turn out to be a cagey encounter once again, with PSG keeping a close watch.

Here, at The Hard Tackle, we will run the rule over these two sides ahead of this important Ligue 1 contest on Friday.

Tactics & Team News

Metz

Frederic Antonetti was not the head coach of Metz when these two teams last met each other in Ligue 1, so it will be interesting to see what kind of method he employs in this encounter. The 59-year-old is more than likely to persist with his back-three that will operate in a deep defensive block, possibly turning into a back-five with the two wing-backs in Fabien Centonze and Thomas Delaine dropping deep.

The return of club captain John Boye could serve as a massive boost in central defence, as the Ghanaian looks to renew his partnership alongside Kiki Kouyate and Dylan Bronn. Farid Boulaya interestingly played in a central position during Metz’s defeat to Monaco, but Antonetti is likely to respect the setup by employing more natural midfielders in Victorien Angban and Mamadou Fofana to feature at the base of the 3-4-1-2.

It should allow Boulaya to operate in a more attacking role, as he looks to offer the supply for the two central strikers in Aaron Leya Iseka and Vagner, who should once again fill in for the injured topscorer Ibrahima Niane.

Probable Lineup (3-4-1-2): Oukidja; Bronn, Boye, Kouyate; Centonze, Angban, Fofana, Delaine; Boulaya; Iseka, Vagner

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LOSC Lille

LOSC Lille have to adopt a more attacking approach, compared to the deep defensive line they had implemented in the reverse fixture. In fact, the visitors are more than expected to dominate possession and will be dealt with the difficult task of penetrating Metz’s low block this Friday.

Their job won’t be any easier by the latest injury to Jonathan David as well as the COVID-19 isolation of Yusuf Yazici. As such, we could see Timothy Weah spearheading the Lille attack this week, alongside Jonathan Ikone, although coach Christophe Galtier always has the option of the more experienced Burak Yilmaz.

In the creative unit, Renato Sanches has been usually utilised as the hybrid winger/attacking midfielder and the Portuguese star deserves credit for settling into the role quickly. And with David and Yazici out, we could see him occupy the right wing slot once again, with Jonathan Bamba starting on the opposite flank.

Galtier does not have any reason to tinker with the midfield partnership of Benjamin Andre and Boubakary Soumare following their excellent performances against PSG. However, both of them will have to adopt a more attacking strategy and this is where it will be interesting to see if Xeka makes a substitute appearance in the second half.

Defensively, Lille will have to deal with the absence of their two premier full-backs in Tiago Djalo and Zeki Celik. One is facing a suspension while the other is recovering from COVID-19. As a result, Domagoj Bradaric could make an appearance at right-back while Reinildo should continue on the opposite flank.

The central defensive duo of Jose Fonte and Sven Botman continue their partnership at the heart of the Lille defence, given the fact that they have played a crucial role in helping Lille attain the best defensive record in the league.

Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Maignan; Bradaric, Fonte, Botman, Reinildo; Sanches, Soumare, Andre, Bamba; Ikone, Weah

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Key Stats

  • Metz have won only two of their last 20 games against Lille in Ligue 1, in August 2016 and May 2017.
  • Metz have lost six of their last eight home games against Lille in Ligue 1, after having gone unbeaten in their previous 25.
  • Metz have lost their last two games in Ligue 1, last losing three on the bounce in the competition between August-September 2020.
  • Lille have picked up 66 points after 31 games in Ligue 1 this season, their best tally at this stage. They have lost only one of their last 13 games in the top-flight. It was against Nimes in March.
  • Metz have lost their last three home games in Ligue 1, their worst run at home since August-November 2017.

Player to Watch

Jonathan Ikone

Impressing everyone more and more with each passing game. (Picture Courtesy - AFP/Getty Images)

Ikone’s pace will be instrumental. (Picture Courtesy – AFP/Getty Images)

With Jonathan David and Yusuf Yazici unavailable, it will be a challenge for LOSC Lille to break the shackles of the deep-lying Metz backline that will try their best to nullify the spaces in the final third. That is where the visitors will bank their hopes on Jonathan Ikone, who has a point to prove after making a slow start to the campaign.

The 22-year-old was instrumental to Lille’s win over PSG, offering a lot of creativity and movement in the final third. Those qualities, coupled with his speed could once again be crucial in this encounter, and with David injured, Ikone will also be tasked with the responsibility of finding the goals as Lille look to maintain their lead at the top.

Prediction

Metz 0-1 LOSC Lille

Metz are not an opposition to be taken lightly by LOSC Lille, especially if we consider how badly Les Dogues have performed in recent weeks, bar the PSG result last week. And with key attacking players ruled out, they are going to find it difficult to break the shackles.

As such, this game could be decided on the finest of margins, although it appears unlikely that Metz will be able to trouble the Lille defence much. We do also predict a narrow win for the visitors, who could rely heavily on set-pieces.

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