On paper the fixture between these two clubs is a mouth-watering contest. Hazard v Dzsudzsak, Sow v Berg, Toivonen v Gervinho. Two excellent teams, six wonderful players surely a must watch match. Alas it would be if all six were going to play.

In Wednesday’s press conference Rudi Garcia gave some heavy hints that you would see a much different Lille side from the one that beat Toulouse 2-0 on Sunday. With the absolute quagmire that is the Stade Metropole pitch who can blame him. Lille will play eight games between now and March the 19th, that’s includes the home visit of Lyon and the away trip to face Marseille in the Velodrome.

Without a major domestic honour since 1955 Lille’s priorities do not lie in the Europa League. The possibility of a run to the Coupe de France final or more importantly a place in next year’s Champions League are being made a priority by not just the fans but most people associated with the club.

For people that have watched Lille recently the starting line-up may look a little different. Jeremy Vandam, Emerson and Idrissa Gueye are names more likely to start rather than the Cabayes and Hazards. With a five point lead at top of Le Championnat and a tough cup game against Lorient to look forward to this could be the end of the road for Lille’s Europa League adventure.

PSV’s manager Fred Rutten has the same tough decisions to make, top of the Eredivisie but on the same points as FC Twente, the priority seems to be in recapturing the Eredivisie title and winning qualification to the Champions League.

As much as the “experts” are building this up as one of the glamour ties of the round, it could end up that we see two different line-ups from players that saw both teams win at the weekend.

Players to watch


This was meant to be Emerson’s break out year at Lille but instead he has found himself mainly on the bench. Garcia has been more willing to play the left footed Franck Beria at left back.

When Lille were knocked out by Liverpool last year, Emerson was given the task to track Dirk Kuyt on the left and the Brazilian did a good job and stuck to his task. This match could be pivotal moment for the 24 year-old. An impressive performance against the attack-minded Dutch could see him knocking on Garcia’s door for a starting place.

Florent Balmont

Lille’s resident hard-man, playing alongside Rio Mavuba and Yohan Cabaye Florent is one of the most underrated players in Ligue 1. The ex-Lyon and Nice midfielder loves to be in the thick of the action, whether that is fighting for the ball in the middle of the park or linking up with one of the forwards and bombing down the flank he is an all action midfielder who always gives 100%. He will be important to the team tonight if there are a few squad players given a chance.

Tulio de Melo

The signing of the big Brazilian striker back in 2009 had the Lille faithful purring with excitement. In 2008 he had finished that year with an impressive 13 goals playing with Le Mans. Palermo signed him when the transfer window opened but then they changed their manager, Tulio wasn’t in the new mans plans so Lille stepped in and de Melo was reunited with manager Rudi Garcia. Sadly injury has plagued his time with Les Dogues, only six starts in his first season. Nine starts last year but more sub appearances however the injuries continued. This season has seen Tulio stay injury free and he has become an important part of the team. Coming on as a sub in the Derby du Nord against Lens he scored the winner with the first shot on target. He then came on against Toulouse and found the vital goal as Lille won 2-0.

A Tall and agile striker, he is very good in the air, but equally as good with his feet. With Le Mans he became a deadly finisher but has yet to repeat that potential with Lille, all the ingredients are there for him to become a wonderful player. If he can stay fit and continue to score important goals his confidence will only increase.


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February 17th, 2011

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