LOSC’s hopes of getting their Ligue 1 Uber Eats campaign back on track at home to FC Lorient this weekend are hit by a raft of suspensions and injuries, including to Renato Sanches.
LOSC - FC Lorient Sunday 21:00 CET (2000 GMT)
Lille were dealt a major blow when both Sanches and right-back Zeki Çelik suffered injuries while on international duty over the past week. Midfield star Sanches picked up a hamstring injury after playing and scoring in Portugal’s 7-0 friendly win over minnows Andorra in Lisbon, while Çelik could now be out for several weeks after hurting an ankle in Turkey’s UEFA Nations League win over Russia in Istanbul last weekend.
The injuries to two key members of his squad led Lille coach Christophe Galtier to lash out at the demands being made on players due to a fixture calendar that is especially packed in this coronavirus-impacted season. Countries have just played as many as three games in the space of a week over the recent international break, while Lorient’s visit to the Stade Pierre-Mauroy is the first of 10 matches facing LOSC in 32 days before the short winter break.
Watch highlights of Lille's defeat at Brest
“Those who made up the international calendar have lost all understanding of what top-level football is. There are players breaking down everywhere, in all national teams, and all clubs are affected,” Galtier told sports daily L’Equipe. “The calendar has been compressed and, on top of that, more matches have been added with an extra friendly going into each international break.”
Lille are also without three players due to suspension this weekend, with centre-back and captain José Fonte, left-back Reinildo and centre-forward Burak Yilmaz all serving one-game bans. But at least Galtier has a raft of back-up options at his disposal after no major players left before the transfer window closed last month, and he will be able to recover that trio for Thursday’s UEFA Europa League home game against AC Milan.
“Luckily there were no departures, notably in midfield where anyone who left would not have been replaced, like Bouba” Soumaré, who would have been allowed to move on if the right offer had come in, Galtier said. He could now hand a chance to Senegalese youngster Cheikh Niasse, although Benjamin André, Xeka and Soumaré are all ahead of him in the midfield queue.
“Renato’s absence will open the door to Cheikh. He might get some minutes but I will still have three pretty experienced midfielders.”
Highlights: Lorient lose at home to Nantes
Lille saw their unbeaten start to the campaign in all competitions end in their last outing before the international break when they lost 3-2 away to Stade Brestois 29 in Brittany. They had been 3-0 down at half-time at the Stade Francis-Le Blé before Yilmaz scored a second-half brace to offer them some hope, and then almost equalised at the death.
Grbic to get back among goals?
That result left Les Dogues five points behind leaders Paris Saint-Germain in second place, damaging their chances of providing a challenge to the reigning champions even this early into the campaign. Lille are particularly strong at home, though, and will be expected to get the better of a Lorient side still struggling with the step-up after returning to the elite in the summer.
The Brittany side lost 2-0 at home to FC Nantes last time out, leaving them with just one win and five points from nine outings since beating RC Strasbourg Alsace on the opening weekend. They have failed to score in their last three matches and the hope will be that Adrian Grbic can get back among the goals - he scored two in Lorient’s first three outings of the campaign but the big summer signing has not found the net since, although he did grab an injury-time equaliser for Austria against Norway in Vienna in the Nations League in midweek.
“To say we are confident with eight points from 10 games would be a bit mad,” said Lorient coach Christophe Pélissier after the Nantes reverse. “Of course we are worried because we are not moving forward. We have points in sight but they get away from us, so we need to be more efficient in both boxes.”
Lorient: Nardi; Gravillon, Laporte, Morel, Abergel; Moffi, Chalobah, Lemoine, Wissa; Hamel, Laurienté
LOSC: Maignan; Pied, Botman, Soumaoro, Bradaric; Ikoné, André, Xeka, Bamba; David, Yazici