Tonight on the French island of Corsica, third place Lille OSC have the chance to secure their place in next season’s Champions League qualifiers, but they will have to do it against SC Bastia, one of the toughest away trips in French football. It may be third against eleventh, but it will be anything but a formality for the side from northern France.
On their way to Ligue 1, Bastia went two seasons without losing a game at the Stade Armand Cesari while winning promotion from the Championnat National and Ligue 2 consecutively. It wasn’t till Paris Saint-Germain travelled to the island that they finally tasted defeat.
This season Bastia have only lost four games at home, sixth amongst the other sides in Ligue 1. Three of those defeats came within three games recently when they faced Monaco, Saint-Etienne and PSG. Their only other defeat came against Lyon in December, in fact no team outside the top five have managed to beat Bastia at home. That leaves Lille to complete the set this evening.
Their opponents will be quietly confident about securing their third place finish against the islanders. René Girard’s side are unbeaten in their last five away matches with wins against Toulouse and fellow Corsican side Ajaccio.
One player they will have to be wary of though is actually one of their own. Belgian forward, Gianni Bruno is on loan from Lille this season and he has eight goals this season including three in the last six games. He will wanting to make an impression on Lille’s new boss and perhaps give Girard something to think about next season.
Lille’s leading marksman is former Chelsea striker, Salomon Kalou, and the Ivorian will be looking to add to his tally of 13 league goals this season. The 28-year-old is looking to move on in the summer and it will be interesting to see if Bruno can outshine Kalou and win a place in Lille’s strike force for next season.
Kalou opened the scoring for Lille last weekend against Bordeaux, luckily his missed penalty in injury-time didn’t stop them picking up all three points. The 2-1 win at home moved them seven points clear of Saint-Etienne in fourth and three points from securing third.
Prediction: Bastia has nothing to play for, but are always a tough cookie to crack at home. Expect resistance, but Lille will have enough to get the points they need: 2-1 to Lille.
SC BASTIA: Landreau - Keita, Romaric, Modesto, Harek - Cahuzac, Yatabaré - Bruno, Boudebouz, Khazri – Raspentino
LILLE OSC: Enyeama – Beria, Basa, Kjaer, Souare – Mavuba, Balmont, Gueye – Martin – Origi, Kalou