Sports Mole previews Saturday’s Ligue 1 clash between Lille and Troyes, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.
The reigning French champions in the top flight will face the Ligue 2 winners from a season ago, as Lille host Troyes at Stade Pierre-Mauroy on Saturday.
Les Dogues scored on their only two targeted efforts Wednesday to extend their unbeaten run to six straight matches in all competitions, while ESTAC put an end to their four-game winless streak by beating Lorient 2-0.
After going through their longest winless run (six games) in the league since 2018 when they failed to win 11 in a row, Lille got their campaign back on track, defeating a quality side in Rennes (2-1) who were unbeaten in their last eight league fixtures before Wednesday.
Starting matches well has not been a problem for Jocelyn Gourvennec‘s team, but maintaining that momentum has been challenging for them, as before their triumph this week they had failed to claim a victory in any of their previous five Ligue 1 encounters after taking the lead in the first half.
With a chance to advance into the knockout stage of the Champions League next Wednesday, it will be interesting to see what kind of team the former Ligue 2 Manager of the Year decides to select as his side are currently in 12th, but only two points behind Strasbourg, who are sixth.
It is safe to say that this team, who surprised everyone by beating out a star-studded PSG side to win their fourth league title last season, have not lived up to expectations thus far, with only 21 points from 16 games, which is among the fewest ever accumulated by any defending French league champions in the top flight.
Lille like to press high up the field and force turnovers, although they struggled to win the ball back against Rennes with only 34% of the possession through 90 minutes.
This year, they have lost just once at home in all competitions, conceding multiple goals in only one of those fixtures, a 4-0 defeat to Nice in their opening match at Stade Pierre-Mauroy.
After a pair of narrow defeats, losing 1-0 to both Marseille and Saint-Etienne, Troyes came out on the right side of a well-deserved 2-0 victory over Lorient.
The team based out of north-central France started brightly with a goal seven minutes into their midweek clash and did not let up as they kept a clean sheet for the third time in this domestic campaign.
ESTAC had narrowly missed ascent into the top tier of French football numerous times, falling in the play-off round in 2018-19 and coming up three points short of promotion in 2019-20, before Laurent Battles was able to lead them back into Ligue 1, losing only seven matches en route to the Ligue 2 title in 2020-21.
This side did not begin their return into the top tier in exemplary fashion, going winless in their opening four matches, accumulating just a single point in that time.
At the moment, it seems as though there is no clear identity on this team as Battles has put together a different starting formation in each of their previous four fixtures.
Even though the results have not always gone their way, they are proving to be a tough out for opposing sides, narrowly losing to Monaco and PSG (2-1 both times) and squandering a 1-0 lead at half-time to fall 3 -1 to Lyon.
Lille Ligue 1 form:
Lille form (all competitions):
Troyes Ligue 1 form:
Zeki Celik missed the previous match for the Ligue 1 champions as Tiago Djalo moved over to take his place at right-back, with Sven Botman starting in central defence, Xeka and Tim Weah began in midfield in place of Jonathan Ikone and Amadou Onanawhile Renato Sanches began up front instead of Burak Yilmaz.
Jonathan Davidwho leads the league having found the back of the net 10 times this year, is without a goal in his previous two matches, but he is a big reason why this team are in a strong position to advance in the Champions League, scoring in each of their last two fixtures including the winner in a 1-0 triumph over RB Salzburg.
Their captains Jose Fontewho scored three times in the league last season, has been contributing in another way so far this year with three assists, three more than he had in their entire campaign in 2020-21.
Midfielder Tristan Dingome became the provider for Troyes on Wednesday, assisting on both of his team’s goals scored by Renaud Ripart and Rominigue Kouamethe first for each of them in this domestic campaign.
Karim Azamoum has a cruciate ligament rupture, and Metinho is nursing a shoulder injury that he sustained in late July.
Yoann Touzgharwho led the team with 16 goals in Ligue 2 a season ago, is second in scoring for Troyes at the moment with two strikes, one back of Mama Balde and Xavier Chavalerin.
Lille possible starting lineup:
Grbic; Mandava, Botman, Fonte, Celik; Bamba, Xeka, Andre, Onana; Sanches, David
Troyes possible starting lineup:
Gallon; Kone, Salmier, Giraudon, Rami, Biancone; Balde, Tardieu, Dingome, Chadli; Touzghar
We say: Lille 2-1 Troyes
Troyes have shown that they can compete with the top sides in this league, but they struggle to maintain the high intensity needed at this level for 90 minutes.
Lille have been uncharacteristically poor defensively early on in this campaign, already conceding as many goals (23) as they did in their championship triumph last season, although they have scored in their previous eight matches in all competitions and should have enough firepower to get past Troyes.
Our expert tipster partners at Sporita.com are predicting under 3.5 goals in this match. Click here to find out what else they are predicting for this game and for more of their tried-and-tested football tips.Under 3.5:data