Stadium Presentation: Stade Pierre-Mauroy
The Stade Pierre-Mauroy is a fitting venue for the Coupe de la Ligue final later this month, with the home of LOSC having become used to staging showcase events in recent years.
RC Strasbourg Alsace and EA Guingamp go head to head in this season's final on Saturday, March 30 with the aim of succeeding Paris Saint-Germain -winners in each of the last five years - on the roll of honour. Fans of both clubs will flock to Villeneuve-d'Ascq on the outskirts of Lille for the match, ensuring that there should be a sell-out crowd for the occasion at the 50,083-capacity ground.
The Stade Pierre-Mauroy will be the latest stadium to host the final of the competition since the decision was taken to move it away from the Stade de France. PSG beat AS Monaco at the Groupama Stadium, home of Olympique Lyonnais, in 2017 and then defeated the same opponents at the Matmut Atlantique in Bordeaux 12 months ago.
Like those venues, and the Allianz Riviera in Nice, the Stade Pierre-Mauroy is part of the new wave of grounds to have opened in France in this decade. It has been home to LOSC since 2012, when Les Dogues finally ended an exile of eight years spent playing at the nearby Stadium Lille Métropole. They even staged certain gala fixtures - league meetings with Lyon and UEFA Champions League group games in the 2005-06 season - at the Stade de France. The club had left their old home in Lille, the Stade Grimonprez-Jooris, in 2004, never to return.
'A big thing for France'
"The arrival of a stadium of this stature in the Lille area constitutes a revolution," said Michel Seydoux, Lille's president at the time. "Of course this is a big thing for France, but also for Europe as well, because this stadium has been conceived to shine beyond our borders."
A crowd of more than 44,000 watched LOSC play their first game in their new home, a 1-1 draw against AS Nancy Lorraine in August 2012. In six and a half years, the northern side have had ups and downs at the Stade Pierre-Mauroy, which is named after a former French Prime Minister and long-serving mayor of Lille.
LOSC have hosted the likes of Bayern Munich and Valencia in the Champions League there, finished third in Ligue 1 in 2014 and are currently flying high in second under Christophe Galtier, having been beaten just once all season in front of their own fans. Their average gate this season of 31,400 is the fourth-highest in Ligue 1 Conforama.
Davis Cup finals
The prospect of Lille hosting European games next season is very real, but the Stade Pierre-Mauroy has already staged a wide range of major sporting events. One of the main reasons for that is geography, as touched on by Seydoux, with Lille handily located between Paris, London and Brussels. But the stadium itself is state of the art, and uniquely for France it has a retractable roof to protect the pitch from the potentially bitter winter weather.
During Euro 2016, six matches were played here, including the memorable quarter-final between Wales and Belgium and hosts France's draw with Switzerland in the group phase.
However, it has also hosted three Davis Cup tennis finals, including the last two. A record crowd of 27,432 watched France against Switzerland in the 2014 final. In addition, it was the venue for the 2015 EuroBasket final, when Spain defeated Lithuania. In 2017, it was used for the World Men's Handball Championship, and a record crowd for that competition of more than 28,000 fans watched France in action in the knockout phase. It has also staged rugby internationals involving Les Bleus.
Now it is about to add another big event to an already long list. The only disappointment for locals is that LOSC will not be there - they were eliminated by Strasbourg earlier in the competition. Nevertheless, this could still end up being Lille's best campaign in seven seasons since they entered their new home, and moved into a new era in the process.