LOSC Lille - Girondins de Bordeaux
Lille head into the weekend well placed behind champions Paris Saint-Germain, six points ahead of Olympique Lyonnais in third and with their "destiny in our hands", as coach Christophe Galtier pointed out after last weekend's draw with OL.
Without taking into account Lyon's results, Lille know they need four points from their closing trio of encounters to finish runners-up, though with their goal difference being vastly superior to Lyon's — +31 to +15 — even a single win might be enough.
"It would be good to finish with two wins at home," said Galtier, whose side play host to Angers SCO in Week 37 before going to Rennes for their final game of the seasn. "We have to stay focussed. I have a young squad, I'm very proud to work with them. I have to stay calm and keep a clear head about the situation. Let's not get carried away, because that leads to a slackening off or to anxiety."
While the message from the coach is 'Keep calm and carry on', the club's fans cannot help but dream. Galtier steered them away from relegation only last season, and they have seen their side thrill Ligue 1 Conforama with their brand of high-tempo football.
Nicolas Pepe has been central to that, and only Paris Saint-Germain's Kylian Mbappé has been involved in more of his team's goals than the Ivory Coast international this season, who has struck 20 times and provided 11 assists.
Gabriel: 'Incredible squad'
The front line is rightly lauded — they have scored five times in their last two home games, against PSG and Nîmes Olympique — but the fact only two teams have managed to score more than once at the Stade Pierre Mauroy all season, and that Lille have kept seven clean sheets in their last 13 games, shows that the defence deserves credit too.
The experience of ex-Southampton and Crystal Palace defender Jose Fonte has been invaluable, notably in helping Brazilian centre-back Gabriel spread his wings.
"This season has been magnificent and will stay with me forever, because we have the opportunity to finish second in front of some great teams," said the 21-year-old, who — after loan spells at ESTAC Troyes and Dinamo Zagreb — appears to have established himself in northern France.
"We have an incredible squad. We're always together, working, laughing too, and you can feel that on the pitch. We deserve everything we have done this season, and I hope we're going to qualify for the Champions League."
A turbulent season which is destined to end with their lowest points tally since 2004/05 means Bordeaux's hopes have to be placed in the future. New coach Paulo Sousa has been given a strong indication of the scale of the task ahead of him with his team slipping down the table after a run of four successive defeats.
They did beat Lille when the pair met earlier in the season, but their matchwinner that day, François Kamano, has found the net just three times in his last 25 league matches, embodying the struggles of the whole team, who have scored just ten times in their last 15 games.
"Our first half was very bad and we were off the pace. There was no movement or intensity," said Sousa after last weekend's 1-0 home defeat to Angers, his fourth loss in his seven games in charge, offset by a single victory.
"The players just waited on the ball and we shouldn't do that. We played backwards too much. Our opponents closed us down well but we made it easy for them. We also lack the talent in the final third to make the difference. Even if there's nothing left to play for the players must improve their mentality."
Lille: Maignan; Çelik, J. Fonte (c), Gabriel, Koné; Mendes, Soumaré; Pépé, Ikoné, Bamba; Rémy
Bordeaux: Costil (c); Sabaly, Koundé, Pablo, Poundjé; Plasil, Otávio, Basic; Youssouf, Briand, Kamano