Ajax couldn’t get through in the Champions League this season, and they’re now facing LOSC Lille in the RO32 of the Europa League. The French team was part of Ajax’ group last year and now they meet again. With Sven Botman as a starter, Lille is doing really well this season. They’re second in the league together with Paris Saint-Germain and got themselves into the next European round. What are their strong points and are there any things Ajax could benefit from?
After winning both matches last year, Lille would love to get revenge this season. Some great players have left them but they certainly replaced them. We can expect them starting in a 4-4-2 formation. Renato Sanches is their playmaker on the midfield, he’s got the ball as many times as possible and will be looking for the attack. It’s a strong player, but it could be a problem for Lille as well. When you pressure him really hard, a lot of confidence on the ball is gone and they will have a difficult time. He just returned after his injury and it looks like he’ll be fit to play against Ajax.
Lille’s fullback love to attack when their team is in possession. This could be great for Ajax, with wingers like Neres and Antony. They should watch out for the counter attacks though, as the French team is really dangerous when there’s a lot of room behind their opponents back four. As we’ve seen before, this could be a problem. It happens a lot this season, but you can’t afford mistakes like that on a high level. Daley Blind and Perr Schuurs really shouldn’t be playing with too much space behind them.
Looking back at last year, Lille has improved a lot. Against the smaller teams in Ligue 1, they have a lot more possession and they really try to play their own game. Against the bigger clubs, they defend a bit more. Patience will be key against them, and conceding goals like against Atalanta can’t happen. One of the strikers, Jonathan David, is a bit like Zapata (Atalanta).
How could Ajax create opportunities? By playing wide, with Antony and hopefully Neres as wingers, and crossing it in towards Tadic or Haller. When Ajax take the lead, Lille will have to get out of their box and this would give them more space for another goal. It’s difficult to predict their starting eleven, but you can always try.
We also had a conversation with a French Lille-fan, @LOSC_fs on Twitter:
Who would you describe as Lille’s best player?
“That’s complicated. I’m thinking of Burak Yilmaz, as he is our topscorer and he brings a lot of experience into the team. Or maybe Jose Fonte, who is getting better and better as he gets older and he really leads the defense. But in the end, I think I’ll go with Benjamin Andre in midfield. He’s like a warrior, always on the right spot and is great at defending. He leads the troops like a captain. He’s not that popular but he is the key man in midfield and the whole team. Unfortunately, he is suspended for the first game against Ajax.”
“How about the injury of Renato Sanches?
“He’s back. He returned last saturday against Nimes (0-1 win) and he surely is ready to play Ajax if he won’t get another injury. That’s great, as Lille is a whole different LOSC when he’s playing.
Predicted line-up LOSC Lille: Maignan; Celik, Fonte, Botman, Mandava; Ikone, Sanches, Soumaré, Bamba; David, Yilmaz.