Lille will make the long journey to Monaco to take on the principality side this weekend in what will be a hugely important and thrilling matchup between the two sides currently competing for that all-important 4th-place spot in Ligue 1.
The clash will be the penultimate game of Sunday’s French football action, and with just 3 games remaining after this upcoming set of fixtures have been played, could be very telling in who could go on to secure European football for next season. Ligue 1 rewards the top 2 finishing teams with instant qualification to the Champions League group stages, while the side finishing 3rd is given a spot in the qualifying rounds of that competition.
At this stage, it is practically certain that those three spots will be taken by PSG, Lens and Marseille, leaving whoever finishes in 4th-place with a spot in the Europa League instead. And currently, Philippe Clement’s Monaco side are in that position, with their current haul of 64 points giving them a 5-point advantage over the chasing Les Dogues who are one spot behind them in 5th place.
With just a few matches of the season left, it looks likely that Monaco will make it to the group stages of Europe’s secondary competition ahead of Lille. But what makes this match so compelling is that were Monaco to slip up, it could all very easily fall out of their hands and Lille could overtake them right at the tail end of the season. Because although they do currently have that 5-point buffer, Monaco also have the tougher run-in of the two clubs, and were they to suffer defeat this weekend, it would leave them looking very nervously over their shoulder for the remaining 3 matches of the season while swinging the momentum a bit more in Lille’s way and thus giving them hope that they could pip the principality side to 4th place.
Both clubs come into this match in a very similar vein of form, with both teams having picked up 3 wins, 2 defeats and a draw each from their last 6 league outings. Les Monegasques picked up three points against Strasbourg, Lorient and in the weekend just gone against Angers, but they have also recently dropped points in a draw with relegation-threatened Nantes, and lost to both Lens and midtable Montpellier.
For the visitors, their most recent three wins came against Lorient, Montpellier and Ajaccio, but they did draw with relegation-threatened Auxerre, and lost to both bottom-side Angers and against Stade Reims just last weekend. As we can see, both sides have shown that they have the propensity to unnecessarily drop points this season, as indicated by those damaging defeats to rock-bottom Angers and a 4-0 thrashing at the hands of midtable Montpellier respectively, with other examples throughout the season as well. And that is part of what makes this mini-race for continental football between Monaco and Lille at the business end of the season so engaging – that on paper, they are two fairly good sides, but that they both keep slipping up along the way in that race.
But, now going into the final few weeks of the season and with Europa League football on the line, both of these sides, especially Monaco who currently hold a 5-point advantage and for whom a loss here would be a huge and damaging psychological blow, cannot afford to be dropping any more points over the next few games.
This will be an incredibly tight and tough match to call for a variety of reasons, but because of what is on the line here and how close we are to the end of the season, we are more than likely in for a cagey yet thrilling game of football between these two teams. Recent form doesn’t do much to separate the two sides though, but Lille did emerge triumphant in a thrilling 4-3 win in the reverse fixture back in October – however, everything else seems to be in Monaco’s favour.
Monaco have that 5-point advantage and come into the match knowing that a win here will put them that step closer to the Europa League and pull them further away from Lille. Their recent record against this opposition also helps, with Lille picking up just 2 wins from their last 12 league meetings with Monaco, whereas the principality side have won 7 of those meetings.
While we think it will be a somewhat tight and cagey affair, we think that everything lies in Monaco’s favour here and so they will emerge from the Stade Louis II with the three points on Sunday. They are priced at 17/10 odds to do so, while the visitors from the north are priced at 7/5 odds to secure the win.
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