LOSC Lille will look to move one step closer towards securing the Ligue 1 title as they take on RC Lens on Friday.

The Ligue 1 title race is about to get much more exciting, especially after Paris Saint-Germain’s elimination from the UEFA Champions League that should see them focus entirely on the league.

The defending champions, though, are still trailing league leaders LOSC Lille by a point, with Les Dogues set to lock horns with RC Lens on Friday, in the Derby du Nord. It is going to be a vital encounter for Christophe Galtier’s men, knowing any mishap could allow the opportunity for PSG to secure a two-point lead at the top by the end of this weekend’s round of fixtures.

On the flip side, though, a win for Lille could put immense pressure on PSG, who face a tough test against Rennes on Saturday. It works nicely in the favour of the league leaders, although in Lens, they are set to face one of the toughest opponents in the division.

Franck Haise’s men have done an outstanding job since gaining promotion and are currently sitting pretty in the fifth position. Although they are trailing fourth-placed Olympique Lyon by a whopping 14 points, a win could be critical for Lens as they look to secure European football next season.

Here, at The Hard Tackle, we will run the rule over these two sides ahead of their highly important Ligue 1 encounter on Friday night.

Team News & Tactics

RC Lens

RC Lens will be blessed by the return of key centre-back in Loic Bade, a target for Arsenal, this week, although left-back Issiaga Sylla remains suspended due to his three-game ban after the red card against Nimes. Bade should be drafted right back into the central defence, alongside Facundo Medina and Jonathan Gradit, as they look to protect Wuilker Farinez with their low defensive block.

The defensive line, though, will be hoping for additional aid from the wing-backs in Jonathan Clauss and Massadio Haidara, who is another player returning from suspension. He will replace Clement Michelin at left wing-back, hoping to keep the opposition at bay.

The midfield line could be vital for Lens as well, given that they will be in charge of the second line of press that will hope to restrict Lille from finding spaces in between the lines. Yannick Cahuzac is hoping to administer the area, alongside familiar partners in Cheick Doucoure and Seko Fofana.

Lens head coach Franck Haise, however, does have a trump card up his sleeves in the shape of Gael Kakuta. The former Chelsea star is back in the fold after recovering from coronavirus, and could be employed as a substitute, should Lens need more creative firepower.

In general, though, the onus will be on the midfield trifecta as well as the wing-backs to offer the creative essence going forward and supply the front two in Florian Sotoca and Ignatius Ganago.

Probable Lineup (3-5-2): Farinez; Medina, Bade, Gradit; Clauss, Cahuzac, Fofana, Doucoure, Haidara; Ganago, Sotoca

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LOSC Lille

LOSC Lille do not have any serious injury concerns heading into this game, but the absence of Benjamin Andre due to suspension should serve as a massive blow for Christophe Galtier. The doubt surrounding the involvement of Renato Sanches doesn’t make things easier either.

It could even go to a point where Xeka might be asked to deputise for Andre in central midfield, alongside Boubakary Soumare in the double-pivot. Sanchez, though, is likely to get the nod, if the Portuguese international is deemed fit for this encounter.

Elsewhere, Galtier could make one change by recalling Jonathan Ikone out wide, ahead of Luiz Araujo. He should occupy the wider attacking role alongside Jonathan Bamba as they hope to provide the creative firepower upfront.

Speaking of which, the Lille attack is likely to be spearheaded by the familiar duo of Burak Yilmaz and Jonathan David. The collective variety provided by these two often hands Lille an advantage in the final third, with Yilmaz a more robust alternative to the naturally dynamic David.

Defensively, Galtier has no reasons to tinker with his setup that has won the last two matches. Sven Botman and Jose Fonte should marshall the four-man backline, with the two full-backs in Zeki Celik and Reinildo offering width and support going forward while occasionally helping out their defensive partners.

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

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Key Stats

  • RC Lens are winless in their last 11 Ligue 1 games against Lille, since a 4-2 win at home on 29 April 2006.
  • This will be the first Ligue 1 encounter between Lens and Lille at Bollaert-Delelis since September 2010 (4-1 for LOSC). Since then, Lens have hosted their neighbour only once in the top-flight, in December 2014 at Stade de France.
  • After their loss against PSG on 1 May, Lens could lose consecutive Ligue 1 games for the first time since January.
  • Lille have picked up 76 points after 35 Ligue 1 games this season, their highest-ever total at this stage of the season in the competition. In the 21st century, six of the eight teams with at least 76 points at this stage have been crowned champions at the end of the season. PSG 2nd with 80 points and Nice 3rd with 77 points, both in 2016/17, are the exceptions.
  • Lens are unbeaten in their last seven Ligue 1 home games.

Player to Watch

Burak Yilmaz

RC Lens are known for their strong defensive line, and LOSC Lille might have a difficult time breaking through their low block. That is where their main striker in Burak Yilmaz could be more important than ever, as he has the experience, as well as the physical and aerial prowess that could make him a nuisance inside the Lens penalty area.

It essentially means the Turkish international can be utilised as an out and out number nine, for crossers like Bamba and Ikone. His hold up play is also going to allow David to make good runs in behind the backline. Moreover, Yilmaz has been in great form as well, netting as many as 13 goals – higher than any other Lille player so far this season. He is, therefore, one to watch out, in this key affair.

Prediction

RC Lens 0-1 LOSC Lille

This is likely to be a low scoring affair as both teams are generally strong defensively. And even though Lens haven’t had the best of records, they are going to be boosted by the return of Bade and Haidara. However, we are expecting Lille to clinch a narrow victory due to their strength going forward, especially with Yilmaz scoring goals and the likes of Luiz Araujo and Yusuf Yazici being available as offensive alternatives for coach Galtier.

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