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Lyon, Lille try to rise above mid-table mediocrity in Ligue 1

While Paris Saint-Germain run away with the Ligue 1 title despite a shock defeat last weekend, Lyon and reigning champions Lille clash on Sunday with both desperately trying to rise above the mediocrity of mid-table.

It always seemed unlikely that Lille could repeat their remarkable title triumph of last season but the northern club would have expected better than to be sitting 11th two-thirds of the way through this campaign.

Jocelyn Gourvennec’s team are nine points adrift of the Champions League qualifying spots and six shy of Strasbourg in fourth, the spot which brings with it a place in next season’s Europa League.

Meanwhile their Champions League campaign for this year looks set to come to an end after a 2-0 defeat away to Chelsea in their last 16, first leg on Tuesday, when their limitations were exposed by the title-holders.

“We need to believe in our chances, even if our opponents are a top-quality side,” said Gourvennec after that game, with the return leg to come on March 16.

Already weakened after winning the title, Lille lost left-back Reinildo to Atletico Madrid and winger Jonathan Ikone to Fiorentina in the January transfer window.

Their star strike duo of Burak Yilmaz and Jonathan David have both gone off the boil, failing to find the net in 2022, and an improvement is needed quickly if they are to stand a chance of returning to any kind of European competition next season.

Lyon, under former Ajax coach Peter Bosz, sit just two points better off as they welcome Lille to their Groupama Stadium on Sunday.

The former seven-time champions have lost just one of their last 11 games in all competitions but too many draws — including a 1-1 stalemate at Lens last time out — risk costing them dear.

“A draw away from home against a direct rival is a good result,” said Bosz of that point, yet Lyon need to put a run of wins together quickly, otherwise they will be facing a third straight year out of the Champions League.

Meanwhile, PSG remain 13 points clear of Marseille at the top despite losing 3-1 at Nantes last weekend.

Mauricio Pochettino’s team are at home on Saturday to Saint-Etienne, the historic club who have given their hopes of avoiding relegation a boost by winning three and drawing one of their last four outings.

“Maybe we need PSG to have an off-day but surprising results have existed since the dawn of time,” said Saint-Etienne coach Pascal Dupraz.

Player to watch: Gaetan Laborde

Striker Laborde had been linked with a move to the Premier League after scoring 18 goals last season for Montpellier. However, after netting three more at the start of this campaign, he was sold to Ligue 1 rivals Rennes for a reported 15 million euros ($16.7m).

The 27-year-old has carried on scoring goals there, with 14 in 28 outings in all competitions for his new side, who sit fifth.

On Friday, Laborde will return to Montpellier to face his old club, who despite missing his goals can go level on points with Rennes with a victory.

Key stats

25 – PSG have not lost any of their last 25 matches against Saint-Etienne in all competitions

7 – The number of matches Metz coach Frederic Antonetti will miss as a punishment after being sent off for a clash with a Lille official last weekend. He was also given a further three-game suspended ban.

6 – The number of points separating Strasbourg in fourth from reigning champions Lille in 11th place. 

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