By A. Scott

Having ended a brilliant 2019 with a chastening defeat, LOSC resume their push for a return to the UEFA Champions League by travelling to Burgundy to face relegation battlers Dijon FCO on Sunday.

Dijon FCO  –  LOSC

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Lille signed off before the winter break with a crushing 5-1 loss away to AS Monaco, a result that followed four consecutive Ligue 1 Conforama victories and left the northern outfit fourth in the table at the season’s halfway stage, behind Stade Rennais FC. While most visiting sides have struggled in the principality this season, the defeat was also a reminder of LOSC’s difficulties on the road – they have won just once, scored just six goals, and taken only five points in nine matches away from home since the campaign began.

“There is no shame in losing in Monaco, but losing in the manner we did tarnishes our record this season, even if we can be satisfied to have 31 points at the halfway stage,” said coach Christophe Galtier after that game, in which Lille had taken the lead courtesy of Victor Osimhen’s 10th league goal of the campaign.

Highlights: Lille crushed by Monaco in last game of 2019

Les Dogues have already bounced back at the start of 2020 by advancing in both domestic cup competitions. They won 3-2 away to fifth-tier side Raon-l’Etape in the round of 64 of the Coupe de France last Sunday, and then beat Amiens SC 2-0 at home in the quarter-finals of the Coupe de la Ligue on Wednesday, setting up a semi-final away to Olympique Lyonnais later this month.

The prolific Osimhen scored in that game, although only after Luiz Araújo had found the net with a sublime goal. The Brazilian also netted in the Coupe de France tie and his form is encouraging for Galtier as Lille chase qualification for the Champions League for the second season running.

Galtier honoured

Galtier has done an extraordinary job in reviving Lille’s fortunes since his arrival two years ago, following on from the success of his time at AS Saint-Etienne, and he was recently rewarded with the prize of coach of the decade by the magazine France Football. On the opposite bench on Sunday at the Stade Gaston-Gérard will be the rather less experienced Stéphane Jobard, who is in his first season as a coach in his own right at the top level.

The 48-year-old endured a difficult start, with his team collecting just two points from their first seven games this season. Nevertheless, their form has improved considerably since then, and Dijon went into the winter break one point clear of the bottom three. They have not won any of their last five league outings though, including a 1-0 reverse in Lille on November 30 and a 2-2 draw at home to 10-man FC Metz just before Christmas, when they conceded a stoppage-time equaliser.

Highlights: Dijon denied by 10-man Metz

“We are the kings of the idiots,” said defender Wesley Lautoa after that game. “The victory was there for the taking and we gifted Metz a point.”

However, Dijon have already beaten Paris Saint-Germain and Rennes at home, and drawn with Olympique de Marseille, so they are unlikely to make life easy for Lille here. They are also fresh from a 2-1 win away at second-tier Valenciennes FC in the Coupe de France.

Full-back Hamza Mendyl can return to the Dijon side after suspension here against his former club, while Yusuf Yazıcı is out for the rest of the season for Lille with a serious knee injury. Timothy Weah is close to making his return, and Mike Maignan should be back in goal for the visitors after Léo Jardim started in the Coupe de la Ligue.

Probable teams

Dijon: To follow

Lille: To follow

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