It’s funny how teams can sometimes manage to some themselves up perfectly in 90 minutes, and a good example of this could be seen last week when Les Dogues hosted Qabala FK for the first-leg of this Europa League tie.
I think most of us new, and indeed even Antonetti suggested himself, that the game was going to be tight, but I’m not sure most people expected to see two different Lille sides turn up last week. I’ll explain what I mean by this…
The first half of the game harkened back to a Lille that most fans of Les Dogues would certainly rather forget. A slow and cautious approach, tinged by an obvious fear of conceding the first goal, led Lille into a game plan that was so visibly predictable that it’s no wonder that Qabala looked the brighter of the two teams at the half-way point.
Caution led to nerves, and Qabala pounced on some lacklustre defending to take a well-deserved lead. Antonetti’s side needed to react, and thankfully, they did.
The team that walked out for the second half seemed much more like the Lille of the end of last season. There was energy and a will to attack. Rony Lopes finally managed to force his way into the game, and he led what was a much more confident attacking line that unfortunately squandered many of the chances it was finally managing to create.
Benzia missed chances too, but finally Lille broke the deadlock as Ryan Mendes forced the ball into the back of the net with a header. 1-1 the game ended, and now Lille must go again, away in Azerbaijan. Will they be able to make it? I think the question that needs answering first is: which Lille side are going to turn up?
LOSC Lille will be expected to field a similar side to the one that started the last league, with the potential absence of Mounir Obbadi, who picked up a knock in the last game. Yassine Benzia could potentially start the game after showing promise in the first-leg.
However, this will all depend on what formation Antonetti decides to field. Towards the end of the last leg, Lille seemed to have switched from their favoured 4-3-3 to a 4-2-3-1, with Lopes playing just in behind Benzia. Perhaps this formation, which allows more players to go forward whilst the backline stays covered by the two sitting central-midfielders, might be the better option.
Qabala FK look likely to pick a similar side to the one that faced Lille one week ago. The 4-1-4-1 they adopted last week, which allowed them to soak up pressure and hit Lille suddenly on the break, seemed to work well, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them do a lot more defending now that they are at home.
Rony Lopes (Lille) – Lopes slowly grew into the game last week, and once he got going, he really got going. If Antonetti allows him to play in a more central role, where I believe he can be a lot more effective and see more of the ball, he is likely going to be the man to force Lille through this difficult tie. I really do believe Lopes could be a big player for Les Dogues this season, he just needs better service.
Bagaliy Dabo (Qabala FK) –The big Frenchman will be trying to cause the solid centre-back pairing of Basa and Civelli problems in this tie, and the way Qabala play makes him the most likely person to turn the tide of this game in the Azerbaijani’s direction. Hitting on the break with pace and getting the ball high into the box will suit Dabo just fine, so Basa and Civelli will have to keep focused if they’re going to stop the Frenchman from knocking the team from his own country out of the competition.
It’s going to be another tough test for Les Dogues, even tougher considering that Qabala have the opportunity to sit back and defend on a pitch they are familiar with. Talented forward players like Lopes, Bautheac and Lopes are going to have to take their chances (which could be few and far between) if Lille are going to edge this one. Which Lille will turn up? Let’s hope it’s the dogged and determined one we saw in the second half of last week’s tie.
Result: Qabala FK 0-2 LOSC Lille (1-3)