LOSC's Turkish hotshot Burak Yilmaz spiced up the Derby du Nord by slamming Lens' Gaël Kakuta for expressing a preference for Paris Saint-Germain pipping Lille to the Ligue 1 Uber Eats title.
LENS - LILLE
(kick-off at 19:00 GMT on Friday evening)
Lens playmaker Kakuta said: "I would prefer Paris to win the title. If we can stop Lille from winning the title then that would be beautiful." Yilmaz, the scorer of three goals in his last two league games, riposted: "He's a very good player and experienced. In terms of respect, he should have kept that to himself and not have said it to the outside world. On top of that, they've just played against Paris and lost to them. I have nothing else to add."
Top of the Ligue 1 table by a point heading into Week 36, Lille have the opportunity to extend that advantage to four points before second-placed Paris Saint-Germain play at seventh-placed Renns on Sunday evening. Promoted Lens head into the 93rd top division derby attempting to strengthen their hold on fifth place, a position that would guarantee European qualification.
Yilmaz: "I am very proud that Turks love LOSC"
Yilmaz continued: "I am very proud that Turks love LOSC and will continue to love the club. It's an advantage in terms of the support we enjoy and provides special emotions. I have a two-year contract at the club and whether we finish first or second, it will have been a great season. I still have a year left on my deal and I'll be here next season, no worries about that."
The 35-year-old has scored 13 goals in 25 league matches for the club he joined from Besiktas last summer and his return to full fitness and the goals column has been vital to Lille continuing as frontrunners approaching the denouement to the season. A fourth Ligue 1 title for LOSC would fully vindicate Yilmaz's decision to come to northern France.
The forward commented: "I'm not going to say the Turkish league isn't of a good standard, but French football is superior. I came here at he age of 35 because football is at the heart of my life. My family understand that and it will be the case until the end of my career."
Galtier: "We're going to have to win our three games"
Lille coach Christophe Galtier has challenged his squad to take nine points from nine between now and the end of the season - a haul that would guarantee silverware. Galtier said: "I don't know if Paris Saint-Germain being knocked out of the Champions League will cost them the title. Their players are used to competing for all the trophies. They reached the semi-finals of the Champions League, they're still in the hunt for the league title and they are in the semi-finals of the Coupe de France. I think that Paris will win their final three Ligue 1 games. If we want to stay ahead of them, then we're going to have to win our three games."
Lens coach Franck Haise said: "Whatever happens, this season will remain exceptional in terms of the number of points we've claimed and the identity of our play. It doesn't happen often. Well give everything right until the end and we'll be proud of our achievements. The achievement isn't being in a European position, it's about playing good football and giving fans emotions."
Lens: Leca; Gradit, Badé, Fortes; Clauss, Cahuzac, Doucouré, Fofana, Michelin; Ganago, Kakuta
Lille: Maignan; Celik, Fonte, Botman, Reinildo; Ikoné, Xeka, Soumaré, Bamba; Yilmaz, David