Lille tries to hold off PSG in tight French title race
MONACO (AP) — Lille has no intention of looking back on Angers with any regret this Sunday as an enthralling French league campaign reaches the final round.
Lille has a slender one-point lead over defending champion Paris Saint-Germain, which narrowed the gap last weekend to keep the pressure on. Third-place Monaco is an outside contender as it trails Lille by three points. It needs both its rivals to lose and win by a large enough margin to overtake Lille on goal difference.
Lille could have made things easier but drew last weekend to give PSG a glimmer of hope.
But as Lille’s players trudged down the tunnel after a 0-0 home draw with Saint-Etienne last weekend, veteran Turkey striker Burak Yilmaz issued a strong rallying cry to his teammates.
“We will be champions, you are dogs of the fight,” he shouted in English. “We will be champions next week, you will see!”
They were aptly chosen words from Yilmaz, considering Lille’s nickname is “Les Dogues” (The Mastiffs).
The outcome of an intense title race, which has achieved the rare feat of resonating beyond France, will be known around 11 p.m. on Sunday.
Lille and PSG are both away from home, and PSG may just have the tougher match.
Lille can guarantee a sixth French title and first in 10 years with a win at 12th-place Angers, which is safe from relegation and has nothing to play for.
PSG is at 16th-place Brest — which is fighting to stay up — and must better Lille’s result to avoid losing the title for the first time since Monaco won it in 2017.
Brest is only one point ahead of Nantes in 18th and the promotion-relegation playoff spot.
Nantes, which is led by former PSG coach Antoine Kombouare, has made a superb late push to stay up against the odds.
Nantes is aiming for a fifth straight win when it hosts a Montpellier side which has nothing to play for, aside from giving coach Michel Der Zakarian a good sendoff in his last game in charge.
So Brest can ill afford to drop points against PSG, which is chasing a record-equaling 10th French crown to join Saint-Etienne and Marseille.
Monaco still has a shot at a ninth title, but only just as it has to make up three points and an inferior goal difference of six compared to Lille.
If Monaco loses then Lyon could overtake the principality side and sneak into third for the Champions League qualifying slot.
Lyon is at home to Nice in what could be star forward Memphis Depay’s last game ahead of a touted move to Spanish giant Barcelona next season.
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