Hexagoal Ligue 1 Trophy

Lille feeling 'no pressure' in race for second

Publish on 29/03/2019 at 00:00 - S. WILLIS


Xeka says LOSC Lille are under "no pressure" as they head to FC Nantes on Sunday seeking to maintain their hold on second place in the Ligue 1 Conforama table.

 FC Nantes - LOSC Lille 

The northerners, who only narrowly avoided relegation last season, head into Week 30 second only to Paris Saint-Germain in the French top flight after a remarkable campaign.

They already boast 19 more points than they obtained in the whole of the 2017/18 season, and have just one point fewer at this stage of the campaign than they did when Eden Hazard and Co. claimed the league title in their 2010/11 double-winning season.

With Olympique Lyonnais charging hard behind them seeking to rob them of second place — the only one other than top spot that brings automatic UEFA Champions League group stage football — Lille travel to Nantes knowing they cannot afford a slip up. Not that their lack of room for manoeuvre is playing on the squad's mind.

"We'll play to win, to take the three points. We are four points clear in the table, that's the most important thing. No pressure. We benefit from the calmness the coach gives us," explained Xeka.

"We know our game, our quality and what we have to do. We can have accident, like against Monaco. If we lack certain details, we can lose. But if we pay attention to the details, then we'll be closer to winning. We have belief in ourselves.

"We know our weaknesses and we cover them up well. We play to our strengths. The most important thing is to come out of a game knowing we did everything we could to win it."

Xeka: 'Tough trip'

They have triumphed on 17 occasions this term — the most wins the club has mustered since 1949/50 — though there was the "accident" last time out against Monaco, who snatched all three points through Carlos Vinicius' late late goal at the Stade Pierre Mauroy.

Christophe Galtier's side had gone nine matches unbeaten prior to their Week 29 setback, and the Lille coach has captain Adama Soumaoro back after a four-game ban to reinforce the team at the Stade de la Beaujoire.

"Our trip to Nantes will be tough, because as always in Ligue 1, a lot of teams have quality. But we're really focussed, all united. We're capable of getting things together and preparing well for that," said Xeka.

"We have always been disciplined and applied ourselves since the start of the season. We have shown that. We have played well. We're high up in the table, we're good. We have had some tough games, at Marseille and Saint-Étienne, and we played well. You can expect more of the same in the days to come."

Nantes will be braced for the northerners' arrival. They have won just two of their last ten league games to slide into the lower reaches of the table, and now find themselves an uncomfortable nine points above the bottom three.

Andrei Girotto is suspended and Rene Khrin is still suffering from an ankle problem, but coach Vahid Halilhodzic can welcome back striker Majeed Waris after a three-game absence — "He's an important player in the squad, a quick player. His absence has had a big influence," the Nantes boss explained — while defender Edgar Ié, who is on loan from Lille, is also available after missing the last two matches through injury.

"We're not worried about staying up, but we absolutely mustn't slacken off, because the teams behind us are going to be extra-motivated. We'll do everything to make sure everyone gives their all and is focussed right to the end," Nantes captain Valentin Rongier said.

"The international break did us good. It gave us the chance to think about other things in what has been a difficult season. It has allowed us to come back focussed and committed."

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