Hexagoal Ligue 1 Trophy

Pepe and Leao lead Lille charge against Dijon

Publish on 01/03/2019 at 00:00 - S. WILLIS


In-form duo Nicolas Pepe and Rafael Leao will be the focal point of the LOSC Lille attack when the Ligue 1 Conforama frontrunners face Dijon FCO on Sunday seeking to reinforce their grip on second place.

 LOSC Lille - Dijon FCO 

Lille head into the weekend's action as leader Paris Saint-Germain's closest challengers, and a handy five points clear of Olympique Lyonnais in third. They stuttered to a second successive draw when they were held 1-1 at RC Strasbourg Alsace last time out, but Lyon's defeat in Monaco meant Christophe Galtier's men continued to inch closer to a UEFA Champions League place by finishing in the top two.

If they do that, Pepe will have been the principal architect. The Ivory Coast international has 16 goals this season, the first Lille player to do so since Salomon Kalou in 2013/14, and he is closing in on Eden Hazard's mark of 20 from the 2011/12 campaign.

He has been involved in more than half his team's strikes this season, but Leao has recently begun to hit form too, grabbing six goals and an assist in his last nine outings to keep the northerners' momentum high ahead of Dijon's visit.

"Dijon need points, so do we. I watched their cup game in midweek, but I'm focussed on our game and our way of approaching the match. Our two draws recently were not bad performances as we got a point," explained Galtier, who has full-back Zeki Celik available again but not the injured Jérémy Pied.

"The players have been committed and shown rigour throughout the week. The impression that we got this week is that we are going to put in a great display."

Champions League target

He added: "Being overtaken by Lyon wouldn't be a disappointment, because we weren't expected to be so high in the table, and you mustn't forget that Lyon are used to being at the top end of the table. But, we're going to give our all to maintain our advantage."

"We haven't won our last two games, but we did take a point, and that could perhaps make all the difference at the end of the season," added midfielder Thiago Mendes.

"For me and my teammates, qualifying for the Champions League is an objective. Nonetheless, in spite of our good position, we have to stay focussed and keep working to be able to achieve that goal."

Pepe was on target as Lille claimed a 2-1 win over Dijon earlier in the season, and Les Dogues have an excellent record against their Week 27 opponents, losing just once and winning five of the seven top-flight encounters between the pair.

Lille could hardly have wished to be meeting Antoine Kombouaré's men at a better time. After three successive wins to start the campaign, just two more victories have followed in the next 22 matches to leave them second-from-bottom of the table and four points adrift of safety.

They were also beaten 3-0 at Paris Saint-Germain in midweek as their interest in the Coupe de France was ended with Kombouaré left to lament his team's inability to take the chances that did come their way.

"It was difficult. PSG did everything to start well. I watched their last two games and thought they might be out of gas, but this simply wasn't the case," said the ex-PSG and En Avant Guingamp boss, whose side have failed to score in 14 of their last 22 league games, and have struck just once in their last four competitive outings.

"Thomas Tuchel put out his best possible team. He took us very seriously and it made it tough for us. We got better in the second half and got close to their goal, but we weren't clinical enough."

Probable teams

Lille: to follow

Dijon: to follow