Light the blue touch paper, there is a title race in Ligue 1, and momentum is very much with current table-toppers Lille, who host Montpellier on Friday night at 8pm (UK time).
Exactly a decade on from their fairytale triumph in 2011, Christophe Galtier is trying desperately to navigate a title-winning path for Lille, hoping to knock down the pillars of Paris Saint-Germain’s monopolised stranglehold and bring glory to the Stade Pierre Mauroy.
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Where to watch Lille vs Montpellier on TV:
- UK: BT Sport 3
- US: beIN SPORTS
Scoreline prediction: Lille 2-1 Montpellier
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Lille vs Montpellier build-up, previous line-ups & injury news:
Against all expectations, Lille are in the box seat to take home the Ligue 1 crown, with Les Dogues currently three points ahead of perennial champions PSG and with only six games to go. Galtier would have been watching Mauricio Pochettino’s recent Champions League triumph over Bayern Munich with fervent interest, hoping the distraction of Europe just hinders the Parisians slightly in the domestic home straight.
As for Montpellier, Michel Der Zakarian’s men are currently ensconced in the exact same position as they finished the truncated Ligue 1 campaign last season: eighth. It’s an awkward position at this stage of the season, as La Paillade are neither in threat of relegation, nor within touching distance of the top four, opening the possibility for complacency to creep in, which Galtier would welcome with open arms.
- Lille (vs Metz): Maignan; Celik, Fonte, Botman, Mandava; Andre, Sanches, Soumare, Bamba; Ikone, Yilmaz.
- Montpellier (vs Marseille): Omlin; Sambia, Hilton, Congre, Cozza; Mollet, Ferri, Savanier; Laborde, Mavididi, Delort.
The devastating news for Lille is that Jonathan David will be sidelined for several weeks after sustaining ligament damage in his right ankle, which came at a point when the 21-year-old was really hitting his stride, recently netting the winner in the club’s 1-0 win over PSG. For the visitors, Ambroise Oyongo is the only major absentee, with the defender set to miss the rest of the season.
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Players to watch:
- Lille: There have been a number of standout candidates responsible for Lille’s meteoric rise to the summit, not least Renato Sanches who has restored his reputation after a forgetful loan spell at Swansea, and Burak Yilmaz who, at 35, has refused to let his age dictate his trajectory. Another of those ageing stars, but by no means on the wane is Jose Fonte. At 37, the Portugal international remains as fit as a butcher’s dog and highly capable of performing heroics at the top echelon of the game, with his formidable centre-back partnership alongside Sven Botman the bedrock of Galtier’s side. In conjunction, the defensive duo have meanly locked up the backline and brought stability, resilience and aggression to the side. Fonte, skipper of Les Dogues, has been the chief orator, guiding his players through difficult contests and letting his know-how at this level do the talking. His experience will be invaluable for these decisive weeks.
- Montpellier: England U20 international Stephy Mavididi has enjoyed a real breakthrough year at Montpellier, with the 22-year-old Derby-born forward the club’s third-highest scorer with nine goals and has started the previous 11 games, which has culminated in the club going the last 10 unbeaten. An Arsenal graduate, Mavididi has enjoyed a bird-of-passage career path thus far, gaining experience on loan at Charlton and Preston before joining Juventus permanently in 2018. From Turin he moved across to France, first spending last season temporarily at Dijon, before signing terms with Montpellier. Having initially started out at Southend United, Mavididi has come a long way from humble beginnings, and he will now be hoping to push on and really cement his status as a top-flight regular in Europe.
Ligue 1 2020/21 recent form:
- Lille: WWLDW
- Montpellier: DDWDD
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