After a disappointing start to their defence of the Ligue 1 Uber Eats title, LOSC Lille are hoping to breathe life into their campaign when they welcome Stade de Reims to the Stade Pierre-Mauroy on Wednesday.
LOSC Lille - Stade de Reims Wednesday at 19:00 CET (1700 GMT)
To say it has been an underwhelming start to the season for LOSC would be an understatement. Their 1-0 defeat in the derby at RC Lens on Saturday left them with just one win and five points on the board from six games. The team that heroically pipped Paris Saint-Germain to the title in May already find themselves 13 points adrift of the capital club who top the table. Lille ended the weekend in a lowly 15th place and the only previous reigning champions to have started a season in worse fashion were FC Nantes, who had just two points on the board at the same stage in 2001-02.
Jocelyn Gourvennec is the man who is carrying the can for Lille’s poor start. He always knew it would be a big ask to replace Christophe Galtier in the dugout but the 49-year-old cannot have expected results to have been so poor with a team that has, in its majority, stayed together from last season.
Highlights: Lille lose northern derby
The starting line-up against Lens featured just two players who were not at the club last season. Croatian goalkeeper Ivo Grbić was brought in on loan from Atlético Madrid as a replacement for the pivotal Mike Maignan, sold to AC Milan. Former Manchester United youngster Angel Gomes returned to the north of France following a year on loan at Boavista in Portugal. Two other new faces - Swedish left-back Gabriel Gudmundsson and Belgium Under-21 midfielder Amadou Onana - came off the bench.
Having lost away at FC Lorient prior to the northern derby, Lille are hoping a return to home turf will see them get back on track before consecutive away trips - after hosting Reims they visit RC Strasbourg Alsace at the weekend before going to Salzburg in the UEFA Champions League.
It is therefore set to be a pivotal few days for Les Dogues but there will be no guarantees against a Reims side who lie above them in the table and who have only lost once this season, in a 2-0 home defeat against PSG.
Óscar García’s team have admittedly only won once too, with four of their six outings so far ending in draws. That was the case at the weekend when they were held 0-0 at home by FC Lorient. Indeed the former European Cup finalists have drawn 14 games this calendar year, more than any other side in the continent’s so-called big five leagues heading into the midweek round.
Highlights: Reims held by Lorient
Lille are without the suspended Xeka, while Gourvennec confirmed on Tuesday that neither Jonathan Bamba nor Renato Sanches are yet ready to return to action. Goalkeeper Léo Jardim is nursing a neck problem although he has not played since the 4-0 home hammering by OGC Nice in Round 2, more than a month ago. Reims are still without Mathieu Cafaro, Malian forward El-Bilal Touré and Scottish striker Fraser Hornby.
What they’re saying
José Fonte (Lille captain): “The only way I know to change things and turn our season around is to work hard and be positive, but when I look at the last two matches I don’t think we have played badly. Up until the goal against Lens we could have scored two or three goals ourselves, but unfortunately things didn’t work out for us. Last season was fantastic. It was incredible what we did last year but life goes on and we need to keep trying to win games, put in good performances, because last season is finished, it’s history now. We have played six matches this season and there are still lots of points to play for. We have started badly but we have lots of quality and if you look at the team it’s almost exactly the same team as last year.”
Jocelyn Gourvennec (Lille coach): “When results are not good it’s harder to move on to the next game. We need to remobilise everyone. There is lots of disappointment after the Lens game but now we need to prepare for Reims. In our last two games all we have been missing is the opening goal from the chances we had. We have been well organised, we gave away very few chances against Wolfsburg and Lens, but it’s just been the little error that has cost us. If we all stick together we will turn it around.”
Óscar García (Reims coach): “We will go there to win the three points. We know they are the champions of France but we are not afraid of playing anyone. Even if they had won every game we would have the same mentality. We know they are a very good side. All the players want to play against the top teams. We don’t play against Lille or PSG every week. They deserved to be the champions. It’s not easy to win the league here ahead of PSG but they did and they have practically the same squad. Benjamin André is for me maybe one of the best three midfielders in the league, and then they also have a mix of good young players and more experienced players like Fonte.”
Lille: To follow
Reims: To follow