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Lille on the rise in Ligue 1 despite woeful Champions League form

Matthew Riding

Kalou 300x225 Lille on the rise in Ligue 1 despite woeful Champions League formAfter being thumped 6-1 by Bayern Munich last week in the Champions League, it would be fair to say Lille’s aspirations of qualifying for the knockout stages of the competition are all but over.

They sit bottom of Group F, with no points to show for their efforts. However, despite their failings in Europe’s elite football competition, things are looking far more positive for Lille domestically, and after three wins on the bounce, Rudi Garcia’s men are within touching distance of PSG at the top of the Ligue 1 table.

At the start of the season, the 2011 Ligue 1 champions switched homes and moved into the Euro 2016 purpose-built Grand Stade Lille Metropole stadium.

Their €282million new home brings benefits that the previous Stade Grimonprez Jooris could not provide. It has been given a five-star rating by Uefa, meaning the 50,000-plus venue has the potential to host future European finals. Funded by the government, the city of Lille and the club itself, the stadium has a retractable roof, two windmills and a removable pitch.

The stadium, which will play host to games at Euro 2016, is a venue any club in world football would dream of having. However, Lille took a while to adjust to their new surroundings, and they didn’t win at home until the beginning of October, but that victory against Ajaccio proved to be a turning point, and since then, Garcia’s side have picked up 10 points from four games, including two wins at home.

After losing Eden Hazard in the summer to Chelsea, who last season scored 20 times and played in every league game, Lille knew it would be tough to replicate last season’s third placed finish.

As star player Hazard departed to the Premier League for €40million, Lille knew they had to strengthen if they were to be in contention for the Ligue 1 title. Although Hazard was in effect, irreplaceable, due to his unrivalled quality and world class ability, Garcia attempted to fill his void as best he could by signing Marvin Martin, a €10million acquisition from Sochaux.

The 24-year-old playmaker who has 15 French international caps to his name, stated in the summer that he was ‘ready to go and play overseas’, but rumoured interest from Arsenal, Tottenham and Liverpool never materialised into a bid, and during the Euros 2012 in Poland and Ukraine, it was announced that Martin had signed a five-year-deal with Lille.

The former France Young Player of the Year has fitted into Garcia’s system well, and along with captain and midfield powerhouse Rio Mavuba, Martin provides the likes of Salomon Kalou and Nolan Roux with the service and ingenuity they can thrive on.

At the weekend, it was former Chelsea man Kalou (pictured) who guided Lille victory, scoring just before the break to give his side a deserved 1-0 win against in an in-form Brest side at the Grande Stade Metropole.

As Lille’s fortunes on the pitch improve, off the pitch, uncertainty surrounds their future, with chairman Michel Seydoux revealing he has hired a legal firm to find a buyer for the club.

Seydoux believes that in order for the club he took control of in 2004 to remain competitive at the top of Ligue 1 and grow, he must sell-up.

With the new stadium and promising young talent emerging at Lille, the club provides an exciting opportunity for a new owner to take over the reigns.

As Lille’s form continues to improve after a disappointing start to the campaign, Garcia’s side will be hopeful of repeating last season’s third placed finish and with potential new ownership on the horizon, Lille may just add to their three Ligue 1 titles in the near future.

Something You May Have Missed

-Rennes midfielder Yann M’Vila has been banned from international football until June 2014 after partying in a nightclub before an U21 fixture.

-PSG’s star striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic has been crowned Swedish Player of the Year, an award he has won seven times throughout his career.

Picture: Getty Images

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