At the end of these eighths, the feeling is mixed for French football: if the course of the Northerners has been very honorable, Ligue 1 will have no representative in the quarter-finals of the Champions League, a first since 2019, after the rout of Paris SG against Real Madrid (1-0, 1-3). It could lose ground in the UEFA index…
A successful campaign
But we can’t blame Lille for much, logically defeated by the defending champion on Wednesday (0-2, 1-2). “Our course is successful, magnificent, and it was already successful before the eighth round”, welcomed Lille coach Jocelyn Gourvennec. “What happened after, facing the European and world champion, was to be up to the event and if it was smiling, to continue the adventure. We were up to it, twice (at the there and back, editor’s note). Tonight (Wednesday) we raised the level, we made Chelsea falter, but they did not fall”, he underlined.
What remains for Lille is the satisfaction of having done much better than its last participation two years ago, marked by interesting performances but catastrophic results (1 point in 6 matches). The French champion, this time, surprised observers in a homogeneous group made up of Sevilla FC, Wolfsburg and Salzburg. Halfway through the group stage, Losc was however very badly embarked after conceding two draws (0-0) at home against the Germans and the Spaniards, and lost (2-1) in Austria.
At the foot of the wall, Lille then won three consecutive victories. They first won to everyone’s surprise in Seville after being led at half-time (2-1), then overcame Salzburg at Pierre-Mauroy (1-0) before going win the “final” in Wolfsburg with authority (3-1). “Nobody in us was expecting us at this stage so I’m proud of what we’ve achieved. We’ve grown and we can be proud and satisfied with our performance. We’ll have to keep what we’ve done well to transcribe it into Ligue 1,” said midfielder Amadou Onana.
Snatch a European place, last challenge
The end of the cycle is near in Lille and the players, the vast majority of whom were crowned French champions last season under the nose and beard of the Paris SG armada, have one last challenge to achieve together: to snatch a place European at the end of the season. Many executives are expected to leave Losc this summer, including forward Jonathan David, midfielder Renato Sanches and defender Sven Botman, all highly coveted. Finishing in the Top 5 would be a nice ending for this team built by former owner Gerard Lopez and his right arm Luis Campos, before the sale of the club in December 2020 and the arrival of president Olivier Létang.
“We still have Ligue 1 and we are motivated to seek a European place. We dream of playing matches like that with a full stadium behind us,” David said on Wednesday after the defeat against Chelsea. If the big sale takes place this summer in the Lille workforce, it will be time for reconstruction in the transfer window. Winning a ticket for a European Cup would make it possible to achieve a smooth transition and to attract recruits more easily. Currently sixth in L1 with 43 points, the Mastiffs will have a hard time finishing on the podium since Marseille and Nice, who face each other on Sunday, already have 50 units on the clock.
Fourth place, synonymous with the Europa League and occupied by Rennes, is six points away, while fifth, qualifying for the Europa League Conference is in the hands of Strasbourg, which has 47 points. The duel on Saturday (9:00 p.m.) against Nantes, seventh just behind Losc, will therefore be essential not to see direct competitors escape. And end in style a season where Lille surprised Europe.
Summary of Lille – Chelsea