Lens coach Franck Haise says Les Sang et Or aren't favourites for Thursday's Ligue 1 Uber Eats clash with Paris Saint-Germain despite the champions missing many of their stars.
Neymar and Kylian Mbappé head the absentees for the visitors after positive Covid-19 tests, with Keylor Navas, Mauro Icardi, Angel Di Maria, Leandro Paredes and Marquinhos also missing for the same reason. Thomas Tuchel may have some of the players back for the Classique against Olympique de Marseille at the Parc des Princes on Sunday.
5,000 supporters will be in attendance at Stade Bollaert-Delelis for Lens' first home match of the season following a 2-1 defeat at Nice on the opening weekend. Haise, in charge of the promoted club, said: "I'm happy to be playing again and to be taking on the Champions League finalists, even if they won't have all their players. Do you want me to say we are favourites? No, we are not favourites. We are up against PSG, even if they won't be at full strength. There'll still be plenty of fine players at PSG and we know it will be very difficult in any case."
Bulka to start?
Among Tuchel's many headaches is who to select in goal as Navas' understudy Sergio Rico is ineligible, having been signed from Sevilla after the deadline to be registered for the clash initially scheduled for August 29 and delayed to give PSG more time to recover from their European exploits. Marcin Bulka, 20, is likely to be selected for only his second game, having played last season against Metz.
Thursday evening will see PSG play their first competitive football since the Champions League final and Lens will rarely have a better chance of registering a victory against the capital club, having failed to win any of the last nine league clashes with PSG. With Neymar and Mbappé absent and the crowd limited because of the global pandemic, this isn't how Les Sang et Or supporters would have envisaged the first Ligue 1 Uber Eats home match since May 2011's 1-0 loss to Arles-Avignon but it could still be a special night in northern France.
"5,000 in the ground better than behind closed doors"
Haise commented: "5,000 in the ground is better than playing behind closed doors like we did at Nice. We hope that the limit will be raised in the weeks to come. We all want the stadiums to get back to being full, starting with ours. Being roared on by your fans allows you to go beyond your limits. These things are out of our control."
Massadio Haïdara and David Pereira Da Costa are suspended after red cards for the reserves on Saturday. Charles Boli, Cheick Traoré and Seko Fofana are all injured. With so many attackers unavailable, PSG could turn to 18-year-old Arnaud Kalimuendo to lead the line with German international Julian Draxler and Spanish international Pablo Sarabia the favourites to operate on the flanks.
Lens: Leca; Gradit, Badé, Medina; Michelin, Cahuzac, Doucouré, Sylla; Ganago, Kakuta, Banza
Paris Saint-Germain: Bulka; Kurzawa, Kehrer, Kimpembe, Bernat; Herrera, Gueye, Verratti; Sarabia, Kalimuendo, Draxler