PSG meets Lille in clash of contenders

PSG meets Lille in clash of contenders

PARIS - The Associated Press
PSG meets Lille in clash of contenders

Paris St Germain’s Nene (L) challenges AJ Auxerre’s Alain Traore during their Ligue 1 match at Parc des Princes stadium. REUTERS photo

In a match between two title contenders, Paris Saint-Germain will face a Lille side that has the tightest defense in the French league.

PSG and Montpellier are level with 36 points on top of the league, followed by defending champion Lille in third place with 34.

“We’re getting closer to Montpellier and to the top spot,” Lille coach Rudi Garcia said. “We’ll go to Paris knowing that we can overtake them if we win.”

Lille had the most potent offense last season, but the club lost a bit of its attacking flair following Gervinho’s departure to Arsenal.

Dimitri Payet, who was signed from Saint-Etienne to replace the Ivory Coast forward, has found the net only twice so far while Gervinho scored 15 goals last season.

But Lille made up for the loss of Gervinho, Emerson, Adil Rami and Yohan Cabaye in the offseason by hiring more seasoned players like Joe Cole, Benoit Pedretti, Ireneusz Jelen, David Rozehnal and Marko Basa, whose experience has contributed to Lille’s defensive tightness.

The club has lost only once in 17 league matches.

The trip to Paris could bring back good memories for Lille as it clinched the league title last season in the penultimate round by drawing 2-2 with PSG at the Parc des Princes. “PSG is a team that we respect a lot,” Lille defender Aurelien Chedjou said. “But we’ll go there to play our football and do anything to take the three points.”

PSG spent more than 85 million euros in the offseason in a bid to win its first league title since 1994. But PSG’s dreams of glory took a hit on Dec. 14 when it finished third in Group F and dropped out of the Europa League despite beating Athletic Bilbao 4-2.

“It’s a huge disappointment because there was room to get through,” coach Antoine Kombouare said. “We must get over the disappointment. I expect a strong reaction and a win over Lille.”