Lille’s Champions League run gives French football a lift


Lille players celebrate during their win over Wolfsburg on Wednesday

With French football reeling this season due to repeated incidents of crowd violence, Lille’s achievement in reaching the Champions League last 16 comes as a much-needed bright spot.

While an all-star Paris Saint-Germain dominate the headlines, Lille have followed up their remarkable Ligue 1 title triumph last season by making it through to the knockout stages of Europe’s elite club competition for the first time since 2006/07.

A Champions League group also containing Red Bull Salzburg, Sevilla and Wolfsburg may not have been the toughest in the competition, but it was the most competitive.

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Now they will be seeded in Monday’s last-16 draw, ensuring they will avoid many of the biggest names, although holders Chelsea are among the potential opponents.

“It is an important moment in the history of the club. We have done Ligue 1 proud.”

Eyebrows were raised when Gourvennec, out of management since leaving modest Guingamp after their relegation in 2019, was appointed as Galtier’s successor.

Their European form should now provide a lift for a club that boasts France’s top scorer in Canadian hitman Jonathan David, who has 11 Ligue 1 goals and 14 in all competitions.

In the meantime Lille will hope to close on the teams above them in Ligue 1 on Sunday when they face Lyon, whose own troubled start to the season was exacerbated this week when they were docked a point.

The match will be replayed from the start behind closed doors at a later date.

The giant centre-forward from the French Indian Ocean island of Reunion has scored nine Ligue 1 goals this season for Strasbourg, a figure bettered only by Jonathan David.

Having already scored an impressive 16 times last season, it is not too much of a stretch to say that the 27-year-old could yet break into the France squad ahead of next year’s World Cup, especially with Olivier Giroud falling from favour.

6 – Brest have won their last six Ligue 1 games, the best run in their history. They had previously gone 15 top-flight games without a win going back into last season.

15 – The number of years since Lille were last in the Champions League last 16.

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