3 minute read
3 May 2019
11:30 am

Champions League showdown for Lille and Lyon as PSG limp on


Paris Saint-Germain have gone into meltdown despite another league title, but below them this is a potentially decisive weekend in France in the battle for Champions League qualification.

Lyon's Dutch forward Memphis Depay celebrates after scoring a goal during the French L1 football match between Bordeaux (FCGB) and Lyon (OL) on April 26, 2019 at the Matmut Atlantique stadium in Bordeaux, southwestern France. (Photo by NICOLAS TUCAT / AFP)

With only second place in Ligue 1 certain to join PSG in next season’s Champions League group stage, Lille’s trip to Lyon on Sunday could define their campaign.

Lille have enjoyed an extraordinary campaign and have held second place since early December, inspired by the brilliance of Ivory Coast forward Nicolas Pepe, who Lyon tried to buy back in August and who has scored 20 league goals this season.

Christophe Galtier’s team are currently six points ahead of Lyon with a superior goal difference, so a victory for them at the Groupama Stadium would put them out of reach with only three games left after this weekend.

“We are having a great run and we need to make it exceptional by putting in a great performance at Lyon,” said Galtier after his team’s 5-0 trouncing of Nimes last week.

A first appearance in the group stage of Europe’s elite club competition since 2012/13 is the goal for Lille, while for Lyon missing out on the Champions League is unthinkable.

They must at least hold onto third, which will take them into the qualifying rounds of the Champions League, although it could also take them straight to the group stage depending on who wins the Europa League.

They have won both matches since coach Bruno Genesio confirmed that he would be leaving the club at the end of the season, but their priority for now has to be holding off great rivals Saint-Etienne, who lie just three points adrift in fourth.

Saint-Etienne may be historically France’s most successful club, yet they have not finished in the top three since 1982. If they can do so this time, pipping Lyon would be the icing on the cake for their fans.

Les Verts do at the very least look set to qualify for the Europa League, lying five points ahead of Marseille and Montpellier before going to Monaco on Sunday.

The principality club have endured a torrid season, but they came back from 2-0 down to draw at Rennes on Wednesday thanks to a Radamel Falcao brace, moving them four points clear of the relegation zone.

– Neymar, Mbappe in hot water –

Meanwhile, PSG suffered their third defeat in their last four league games when they were beaten 3-2 at Montpellier in midweek, on the back of their French Cup final defeat on penalties against Rennes.

They may be champions again, but their campaign began to disintegrate with their exit from Europe against Manchester United in March.

They host Nice on Saturday, although their build-up to that game has been overshadowed by the threat of lengthy suspensions hanging over Neymar and Kylian Mbappe.

The duo have both been nominated for France’s player of the year award along with teammate Angel Di Maria, Lille star Pepe and Rennes maverick Hatem Ben Arfa.

However, Mbappe was sent off in the Cup final for a dreadful tackle on Rennes defender Damien Da Silva, while Neymar is in hot water after being filmed hitting a fan who provoked the Brazilian as he went up to collect his runners-up medal.

The end of the season cannot come soon enough for PSG, but they can still match their own league record points tally of 96 if they win their remaining games.

“We can’t play four crap matches,” warned defender Marquinhos.

“We are the champions, we have to put in good performances, enjoy ourselves and make our fans happy.”

Fixtures (kick-offs GMT)


Strasbourg v Marseille (1845)


Paris Saint-Germain v Nice (1500), Bordeaux v Angers, Guingamp v Caen, Reims v Nimes (all 1800)


Montpelliers v Amiens, Nantes v Dijon, Toulouse v Rennes (all 1300), Monaco v Saint-Etienne (1500), Lyon v Lille (1900)


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