Third-placed Marseille take the long trip north to face Lens at the Stade Bollaert-Delelis on Saturday evening in gameweek 22 of Ligue 1.
The hosts have won every game they have played so far in 2022, whilst their upcoming opponents dropped points for the first time last week.
The less said about Lens’ end to 2021 the better, as Franck Haise’s side suffered a dismal festive period which saw them go six top-flight games without a win.
The winter break seemingly did them some good, however, and they appear to have done a hard reboot for 2022.
Their turnaround in form was perhaps inspired by their turnaround in their first game of the year, as Les Sang et Or came from two down to scrape past reigning Ligue 1 champions Lille in the Coupe de France.
Seko Fofana scored in the 67th minute and then again in additional time to take the match to extra time, and the acting captain then dispatched the winning spot kick in the subsequent shootout.
It was the Ivory Coast midfielder who was again the hero at the weekend, scoring a stoppage-time winner as his side came from behind to beat Saint-Etienne and move themselves back into contention for the Champions League spots, now just two points shy of fourth-placed Strasbourg and four behind their next opponents.
Marseille’s Matteo Guendouzi pictured on January 7, 2022© Reuters
Coming into the game on the back of three victories in their last four games – albeit two of those coming against lower-tier sides in the cup – Marseille would have been confident of beating a Lille side whose poor title defence had them stuck in midtable.
However, Les Olympiens found themselves one down after just a quarter of an hour, Sven Botman able to escape the attentions of William Saliba and head home Renato Sanches’s corner.
Despite the visitors being reduced to 10 men shortly after, it took over an hour and a piece of magic from Cengiz Under to equalise, the Turkish winger curling in a beauty from the edge of the area, and Les Dogues were then able to hang on until the final whistle.
That result saw Jorge Sampaoli’s side slip two points behind Nice in their battle for the rest, with Paris Saint-Germain now 13 points ahead of them at the summit and Marseille’s fleeting title hopes continuing to fade.
They must now focus on a return to the top table of European football and ensure they secure a top four spot. A loss this weekend could be fairly catastrophic in those terms.