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Relentless Lille set for Saint-Etienne test

Publish on 06/03/2019 at 00h00 - S. WILLIS

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LOSC look like favourites to secure the second automatic UEFA Champions League spot this season, but they head to an AS Saint-Etienne side on Sunday who have European ambitions of their own…

AS Saint-Etienne - LOSC 

With Paris Saint-Germain careering towards a fifth Ligue 1 Conforama title in six years, Les Dogues have proven to be the best of the rest this term, somewhat against the odds.

Lille were only five points away from finishing in the automatic relegation places last year, and the spine of the team remains the same. Nicolas Pépé and Co. have found another gear this season, though, and are currently enjoying an eight-game undefeated run.

Winning ugly

LOSC needed a late Wesley Lautoa own goal to win past Dijon FCO last Sunday, however, and coach Christophe Galtier is reluctant to take a return to Europe's top table after a seven-year hiatus as a given.

"I'm delighted with the three points because we only played for half a match," he said. "We were completely sleeping the first half, but in the second half the players were more reactive and braver. We had to work hard because we made it hard for ourselves.

Advantage Lyon?

"Lyon have an advantage over us for the Champions League race as they have the personnel, but we're making our own way and we're in front right now. We have to keep winning most of our matches without putting too much pressure on the team."

LOSC's lead over third-place Olympique Lyonnais could be cut to a provisional two points by Sunday, with Les Gones favourites to beat RC Strasbourg Alsace on Saturday, but with Jérémy Pied (groin) Galtier's only real injury doubt, the visitors will be hopeful of winning past the team they beat 3-1 in October's reverse fixture.

Perrin a doubt

Saint-Etienne, who were third as recently as Week 20, have endured a wobble recently, with their 2-0 loss to Olympique de Marseille on Sunday their second defeat in five games. Club captain Loïc Perrin is a doubt with a calf strain, and Galtier's opposite number Jean-Louis Gasset has moved to temper expectations.

"It's not great to lose our place in the table," he said at his post-match press conference. "But there are 11 matches to go and we have six home games, and if we only finish fifth, this was the club's goal. I've never spoken about the podium. There may be a miracle but it's unlikely, and that's me being realistic, not unambitious."

Perrin is joined on the sidelines by Gabriel Silva (Achilles tendon), Yannis Salibur (groin), and Kévin Monnet-Paquet, whose season looks to be over after suffering an LCL knee ligament injury.

 

Possible teams

Saint-Etienne: Ruffier; Debuchy, Subotic, Kolodzieczak; Hamouma, Aït Bennasser, M'Vila, Diony; Cabella; Beric, Khazri

LOSC: Maignan; Celik, J. Fonte, Gabriel, Koné; Mendes, Xheka; Pépé, Ikoné, Bamba; Leao