Lens, Lille

Lille-Lens: 5 things on the Derby du Nord

Lille-Lens: 5 things on the Derby du Nord

Publish on 10/05 at 21:22 - S. TELFORD


LOSC and RC Lens face off in their 116th Derby du Nord on Sunday. From their Coupe de France final in 1948 to nearly merging in the 1990s, it is a fixture with a rich history.

Lille and Lens have won five Ligue 1 Uber Eats titles between them, les Dogues most recently in 2021, les Sang et Or 23 years previous to that, but there doesn't have to be a title on the line for the two sides to get fired up for this one.


LOSC boast four of those five league triumphs, but Lens head to the Stade Pierre-Mauroy on Sunday in fourth, four places and eight points better off than theirs hosts having won each of their last three meetings in all competitions.


Ligue1.com takes a closer looks at one of French football's most important fixtures…


Watch: Lens won the last Derby du Nord 2-1 in April

1) A fixture for the ages


LOSC Lille were still Olympique Lillois when these teams first met back in 1937. Although they come from different French departments - Lille the capital of the Hauts-de-France region in Nord and Lens a principal town of Pas-de-Calais - the drive between the two takes less than an hour.


They both made the journey to Colombes in the north-western suburbs of Paris in 1948. Lille had been runners-up to Olympique de Marseille in that season's top flight, while Lens had only finished eighth in the second tier, but both made it to that year's Coupe de France final.


LOSC were overwhelming favourites as 60,739 fans packed out the Stade Yves-du-Manoir, making the final for the third consecutive year, and Roger Vandooren got them on the way in the 23rd minute. A brace from Stefan "Stanis" Dembicki either side of a Jean Baratte strike gave Lens hope, but Baratte had the final say four minutes from time as Lille won 3-2.


Beating Lens was something they would become accustomed to…


Jean Baratte, Lille, Lens, 1948


2) Overall record(s)


Lille and Lens have met 115 times in all competitions, with LOSC prevailing in 44 of their encounters to les Sang et Or's 37 wins, with 34 draws. Since detailed data collection began in 1992, Lille have scored 50 goals to Lens' 35.


But recent history has been kinder to Lens. Franck Haise's side have won each of their last three games against les Dogues in all competitions, the Mastiffs' bite turning to a whimper since their last victory in May 2021.


Lens won home and away in Ligue 1 Uber Eats last season, and also beat Lens on penalties in the last 16 of the Coupe de France last term. Seko Fofana and Przemyslaw Frankowski have two goals apiece in that time, but they are far from the record scorers in Derby du Nord meetings.


That honour goes to Baratte, who as well as his Coupe de France final brace, scored nine times in total in Derby du Nord fixtures.


Watch: Lens complete the league double over Lille for the first time since the 1981/82 season!

3) The fans


Even though Lille have Valenciennes closer to them geographically, that particular fixture is more commonly known as the Petit Derby du Nord, with the match against Lens carrying significantly more meaning.


Lille the city is seen as predominantly middle-class, modern and internationally orientated, whereas Lens was historically a working-class, industrial town whose primary industry was coal until the last mine closed in the 1980s.


Accordingly, there is extra spice underpinning their battle for regional supremacy, although the games are normally vociferous rather than venomous from a fan point of view. Thirty-four players have transferred directly from one to the other over the years and lived to tell the tale.

4) Star players, then and now


While Baratte is Lille's record scorer in the fixture, Stanis holds that distinction for Lens, having struck four times les Sang et Or against LOSC. More recently, Dagui Bakari and Pierre-Alain Frau have even scored goals for both sides in the Derby du Nord.


Among the most notable players to have played for both sides are France '98 World Cup-winning goalkeeper Bernard Lama, former Chelsea star Loïc Rémy and Bruno Cheyrou, the midfielder once also of Liverpool. Pegguy Arphexad, Roland Clauws and Dominique Leclercq have even transferred directly between the clubs more than once! One-time France winger François Brisson scored 22 times for Lens between 1981 and 1985 and then 21 times for Lille between 1990 and 1993.


Perhaps the most likely to find the target on Sunday would be Lille hot-shot Jonathan David or Lens' top scorer Florian Sotoca, who has matched the Canadian's six goals in Ligue 1 Uber Eats so far this season. David scored the opener the last time Lille beat Lens in May 2021.


Seko Fofana, Jose Fonte, Lens, Lille


5) Did you know?


The Derby du Nord might well have been the Equipe du Nord if the teams had merged, as planned by some, in the 1990s. Both clubs were enduring financial dire straits at the time and Lens president Gervais Martel was in favour of the merger, although his opposite number at Lille, Paul Besson, resigned amid the suggestion.


Pierre Mauroy, the former French Prime Minister and Mayor of Lille who later had LOSC's stadium named after him, wasn't against the idea, "insofar as all the others would've failed," but ultimately nothing came of the would-be FC Nord-Pas-de-Calais.


Both teams were crowned Ligue 1 Uber Eats champions after those discussions - Lens in 1998 and Lille twice since, in 2011 and 2021 - and this crown jewel of French football, thankfully, remains.

Picture credit: Copains d'avant