Lille’s danger men ahead of Aston Villa showdown

Lille OSC are comfortable in their underdog status as they travel to England to face Aston Villa in what will be the French club’s first-ever European quarter-final. 

Manager Paulo Fonseca has already warned the team that outside of Paris Saint-Germain, tonight will be the toughest task his side have faced all season as they take on the Europa Conference League favourites.  

There is no use pretending that there is much parity between one of the finest teams in Ligue 1 and the riches of the Premier League, but that will not mean that Lille will believe there is no hope for them coming into this game, or that they do not possess enough talent to cause Villa problems. 

Jonathan David – The top goalscorer

This game comes at a perfect time for Jonathan David (24) who has recovered from a slow start to the season to refind his golden touch for Les Dogues. The Canadien forward has scored 10 times in his last 10 Ligue 1 games for Lille. It’s a hot streak that sees his total across all competitions rise to an impressive 23 goals. 

David’s blend of intelligence and speed makes him a constant threat to teams that provide him too much space to run into, a high line is often an invitation for Lille to pump the ball forward and let David break through to the goal. 

It looks to be an intriguing battle as a core design of Villa’s game is an extremely high line and a well-disciplined off-side trap. At times, it can appear an invitation to disaster for the English side, and their recent record of allowing 17 goals in their last 10 games suggests there will be chances for David if he can escape the trap.

Edon Zhegrova – The creator

Edon Zhegrova (25) has rapidly become one of Ligue 1’s most exciting talents on the ball. The Kosovian winger like much of the side will have suitors in the summer ready to try and transplant his creativity away from the North of France, but for tonight he will be one of the first names on the teamsheet for Lille. 

11 goals and 9 assists across all competitions hint towards the keen watch that Àlex Moreno (30) will likely have to keep on his opposite number. Any mistake can allow Zhegrova the opportunity to cut inside from the wing and either release a shot or create an opportunity for his teammate. 

Leny Yoro – The impending record breaker

There is one thing certain about Leny Yoro (18) in a career that looks to be destined for the elite, and that is his rumoured transfer this summer will break records for Lille. Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain look to be locked in a battle for his signature, with the centre-back thought to be a transformative talent in the waiting. 

The defender provides both velvet and steel to the backline. A centre-back comfortable with the ball at his feet and also entering the grittier side of the position. He’ll be called upon again in an attempt to keep Ollie Watkins (28) quiet, with the former Brentford forward experiencing a phenomenal season under Emery. 

Tiago SantosThe roaming full-back

A license to get forward and overlap Zhegrova has allowed Tiago Santos (21) to hit the ground running since moving to Lille in the summer from Estoril Praia. The Portuguese full-back’s roaming runs forward and his willingness to chance a shot from distance can make him an uncomfortable target to defend against. 

Like Yoro, his skills are not just limited to the offensive side of the game, and the defender has the pace and the precision to make important stops, while his intelligence was on full-display against Marseille last weekend as he tactically broke up counter-attacks from the visiting side. 

Rémy Cabella – The elder statesman

Outside of the Europa Conference League where Rémy Cabella (34) has been an ever-present presence within the side, appearances have begun to diminish for the forward under Fonseca. The manager has managed Cabella’s minutes carefully and provided the one-time Newcastle player with a leadership role. 

It’ll be in this capacity as an elder statesman in a young side that the forward will be relied upon on his return to England. Cabella has spent a career of nearly-misses with Europe, and his desire to succeed in this competition will be a fire to keep his teammates hungry and motivated. 

Angel Gomes – Lille’s late addition 

Unlikely to start after his recent hamstring injury, Angel Gomes (23) was a surprise late addition to the squad. The midfielder is one of the most featured players for Lille this season, with his manager referring to him as “maybe the most intelligent player in [his] team.”

GFFN | Nick Hartland

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