Lille will square off against Troyes on Sunday afternoon knowing that only a win will do if they want to remain competitive in the race for the European places.
At a time when the visitors sit in ninth position in the Ligue 1 standings, Troyes are in 16th place, just two points above the relegation zone.
Having only recorded back-to-back wins in Ligue 1 on two occasions since November, Lille cannot currently claim that they deserve to still be in the running for the European spots.
Nevertheless, with six points the gap to fifth position with four matches remaining, Jocelyn Gourvennec will feel that his side can still achieve their minimum pre-season target against the odds.
Last weekend’s 1-0 victory over Strasbourg was potentially crucial, Zeki Celik’s 87th-minute goal moving Lille to within five points of opponents who now sit in sixth position.
The strike ended the club’s four-match winless streak and a three-match run without success at Stade Pierre Mauroy, their results on home territory ultimately costing them this campaign.
While Lille end the season with games against three of the teams directly above them in the table, they must first claim maximum points at Stade de l’Aube.
Troyes’ Yoann Touzghar celebrates scoring their first goal with teammates on February 27, 2022© Reuters
There was a time not so long ago when Troyes appeared to be cantering towards survival, Bruno Irles’s team putting together a four-match unbeaten streak in the top flight.
However, just one point has since come from a possible 12 – that draw coming against Strasbourg – and Irles knows that Sunday’s game is arguably their most important of 2021-22.
A visit to Paris Saint-Germain follows their meeting with Lille, heaping the pressure on ESTAC to ensure that they do not suffer their fourth defeat in five outings on Sunday.
On a positive note, their home form has generally been good this season, even if they did suffer a late defeat against rivals Clermont in their last game on familiar territory.
Last weekend’s 1-0 reverse at Nice also came courtesy of a goal in the closing minutes, and the most recent four strikes which Troyes have conceded have all come in the 56th minute or later.