Lille will be aiming to strengthen their grip at the top of the Ligue 1 table when they take on Montpellier on Friday night.

Matchday 33 of the 2020/21 Ligue 1 kicks off on Friday night with league leaders LOSC Lille in action at Stade Pierre Mauroy as they gear up to take on Montpellier.

Having been constantly exchanging positions at the top of the table with current champions Paris Saint-Germain, Lille have managed to open up a three-point gap at the top, courtesy of back-to-back wins against Les Parisiens (1-0) and Metz (2-0). And Christophe Galtier will be hoping that his side are able to widen the distance further this week with their rivals not in action until Sunday afternoon.

For Montpellier, it’s about consolidating their position in the top half of the table. Michel Der Zakarian’s side are currently on an incredible 13-game unbeaten run in all competitions, most recently playing out a thrilling 3-3 draw against Marseille last time out. La Paillade will be hoping to extend their streak with another positive outcome at the home of the league leaders this Friday night.

The reverse fixture between the two teams was an entertaining encounter which was Lille edge out Montpellier 3-2 with Burak Yilmaz scoring a late winner. Ahead of their latest meeting this week, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both teams.

Team News & Tactics

Lille

Heading into the game, Lille have been handed a double boost as Jonathan David has recovered from an ankle injury while Yusuf Yazici is also back after recovering from coronavirus. The duo has been included in the squad named by Christophe Galtier for the visit of Montpellier. Jeremy Pied, however, misses out with injury but Tiago Djalo is back after serving out his one-match suspension.

Galtier will set his team up in a 4-4-2 formation in front of the impressive Mike Maignan between the sticks. Despite Djalo’s return it is likely that veteran defender Jose Fonte partners Sven Botman at the heart of Les Dogues backline against Montpellier. The duo should be flanked by Zeki Celik and Reinildo Mandava as the full-backs on the right and left sides, respectively, with both encouraged to make forward runs regularly.

Benjamin Andre and Boubakary Soumare, who is on the radars of Manchester United and Tottenham, will hold the fort in the middle of the park and offer protection to the backline, providing the attackers a solid platform to build upon.

Renato Sanches has been used on the right-side of a midfield four recently and could find himself in a similar role on Friday, although the Portuguese could drift centrally more often than not, creating space for Celik to bomb forward. On the opposite flank, Jonathan Bamba will look to supply chances for the two central strikers who ought to be Burak Yilmaz and Jonathan Bamba, with Timothy Weah and the fit-again David also being options.

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

Montpellier

Montpellier do not have any pressing injury concerns ahead of their trip to Lille. Manager Michel Der Zakarian will only have to make do without Ambroise Oyongo, who is a long-term absentee with an ACL injury. The visitors will set up in a 4-3-3 formation against the league leaders and are likely to take the game to them, looking to exploit any spaces with the pace of their forwards.

Jonas Omlin will be manning the goal for MHSC with the back four unlikely to change from the previous game. That would mean Junior Sambia should get the nod over Arnaud Souquet at right-back while Nicolas Cozza slots in on the left. Hilton and Daniel Congre ought to be the two centre-backs.

Jordan Ferri will sit the deepest of the three central midfielders and look to break up attacks before they develop into a threat. He will have support from Teji Savanier, who will provide the legs in the engine room. Finally, Florent Mollet should occupy the remaining slot in the middle of the park and will look to take up advanced positions to try and support the team in the attacking phases.

Speaking of attack, Andy Delort, who is the second-highest goalscorer for Montpellier in Ligue 1 this term (11) will slot in as the centre-forward. He will have Stephy Mavididi and Gaetan Laborde, who is their top scorer this season, as his partners in the final third of the pitch. Their pace and combination play will be key for Montpellier’s chances against Lille.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Omlin; Sambia, Hilton, Congre, Cozza; Savanier, Ferri, Mollet; Laborde, Delort, Mavididi

Key Stats

  • Lille are undefeated in 13 of their last 14 matches in Ligue 1.
  • Montpellier have lost only two of their last 14 Ligue 1 away games (W5 D7), after losing six of their previous seven in the top-flight (W1).
  • Lille have lost only two of their last 16 Ligue 1 games Montpellier (W10 D4). They are unbeaten in their last eight home fixtures against their Friday’s opponents (W5 D3).
  • Montpellier have lost none of their last 10 Ligue games in Ligue 1 (W4 D6), their longest unbeaten run in the top-flight since August-November 2018 (11).
  • Lille manager Christophe Galtier has won 14 Ligue 1 games against Montpellier, at least four more than against any other opponent in the top-flight.

Player to Watch

Burak Yilmaz

He may be 35 years of age, but veteran striker Burak Yilmaz continues to be an extremely influential player for Lille. Their joint top-scorer in Ligue 1 this season, the Turkish international has netted 10 goals while also chipping in with four assists. A calf injury early in 2021 did derail his momentum but Yilmaz returned to goalscoring ways last time out against Metz and will be hoping to build on that.

A direct goal-involvement per 111.2 minutes in Ligue 1 is quite impressive, considering his age and recent fitness issues. Expect this old Dogue to cause some problems to the Montpellier defence on Friday night.

Prediction

Lille 2-1 Montpellier

This promises to be a difficult encounter for Lille given as the Montpellier attack has shown that it has the capability to breach any defence once the likes of Gaetan Laborde and Andy Delort get going. However, the league leaders have the best defence in the competition this term, having let in just 19 goals thus far.

Throw in the return of Yusuf Yazici and Jonathan David, Christophe Galtier has two players who can be genuine game-changers from the bench even if they don’t start on the night. And that is why, The Hard Tackle is predicted a hard-earned, narrow win for Lille, sending them six points clear of PSG.

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