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Preview: Lille vs. Montpellier HSC - prediction, team news, lineups

:Headline: Preview: Lille vs. Montpellier HSC - prediction, team news, lineups:
Sports Mole previews Friday's Ligue 1 clash between Lille and Montpellier HSC, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.
Sports Mole

Lille will endeavour to inch closer towards the Ligue 1 crown when they welcome Montpellier HSC to the Stade Pierre Mauroy for Friday's showdown in gameweek 33.

With six matches left to play, Les Dogues could open up a six-point lead at the top of the standings with a win, while a resilient Montpellier have not given up hope of a European berth.

Match preview

Even with Turkish goal-getter Yusuf Yazici unavailable for the trip to Metz after testing positive for coronavirus, the 24-year-old's fellow members of the Crescent-Stars ensured that Les Dogues would ease to a 2-0 victory on the road last Friday - and with a clean sheet to boot.

Still going strong at 35, Burak Yilmaz returned to the starting lineup with a bang as he rifled in the opener on the hour mark, by which point Mike Maignan had denied Aaron Leya Iseka from the spot, and Zeki Celik put the game to bed in the 89th minute as Lille's title charge gathers pace week by week.

Christophe Galtier's men temporarily opened up a six-point gap at the top with that win before Paris Saint-Germain kept the pressure on by teaching Strasbourg a footballing lesson, but with only six games left to play in the 2020-21 campaign, 18 points from a possible 18 will see Lille dethrone PSG as the perennial Ligue 1 champions.

That will be far easier said than done, however, as Lille still have to navigate one more top-of-the-table showdown with fourth-placed Lyon on April 25, and for all of their success on the road, Les Dogues have only managed to win one of their last four league games on home soil.

In spite of their shock defeat to Nimes at the Stade Pierre Mauroy before the international break, Lille have conceded a league-low 10 goals at home this season and have been handed a double injury boost up top ahead of this tie, although Montpellier and their unbeaten run are in no position to let the league leaders walk all over them.

After Andy Delort took just 28 seconds to break the deadlock against Marseille, his strike partner Gaetan Laborde found the back of the net less than two minutes into the second half, but Montpellier's efforts could only see them muster a point in a pulsating 3-3 draw with Les Olympiens last Saturday.

Jorge Sampaoli's 10 men were seconds away from claiming all three points before Laborde headed in a last-gasp equaliser - his 12th goal of the Ligue 1 campaign - as Michel Der Zakarian's side extended their remarkable unbeaten run to 13 matches across all competitions.

Eleven of La Paillade's 13 games in that streak have come in Ligue 1, although their six-goal thriller with Marseille represented a fifth draw in six matches for Montpellier, whose only victory since the start of March was a resounding 3-1 success over an abysmal Bordeaux in gameweek 30.

Continuously dropping two points to mid-table sides could ultimately prove to be Montpellier's downfall in their bid for European football, but La Paillade remain in the hunt for a continental spot as they sit eighth in the table - six points below fifth-placed Lens - and the 52 goals they have chalked up is the most out of any team outside of the title-chasing quartet.

Furthermore, Der Zakarian's side have only claimed one win from their eight Ligue 1 games on the road - although that was a memorable 2-1 triumph at Lyon - and their meeting with Lille just before Christmas ended in a thrilling 3-2 win for Les Dogues, who have not lost to Montpellier at home since 2011.

Lille Ligue 1 form:
  • D
  • W
  • D
  • L
  • W
  • W

Lille form (all competitions):
  • W
  • D
  • L
  • L
  • W
  • W

Montpellier HSC Ligue 1 form:
  • D
  • D
  • D
  • W
  • D
  • D

Montpellier HSC form (all competitions):
  • W
  • D
  • W
  • D
  • W
  • D

Team News

Lille were expected to make do without Jonathan David for several weeks due to the ankle sprain he sustained against PSG, but the Canada international has made a rapid comeback and is already being put through his paces on the training pitches.

However, Galtier is not expected to throw him back into the first XI for this game - especially with their battle against Lyon in the back of the manager's mind - so David may only be able to apply for a spot on the bench alongside Yazici, who has now recovered from COVID-19.

Jeremy Pied's own ankle sprain is more of a concern, but Celik has firmly established himself as Galtier's right-back, and Tiago Djalo is back from a suspension to boost the hosts' defensive options anyway.

Montpellier are also in terrific shape heading into this battle, as long-term absentee Ambroise Oyongo (ACL) is the only concern for Der Zakarian here.

Right-back Arnaud Souquet would hope to make his 100th appearance in Ligue 1 this week, but Junior Sambia has emerged as Der Zakarian's favoured starter on that side of the defence and will hope to build on the five assists he already boasts this term.

Out of the 52 league goals that Montpellier have notched up this term, Laborde, Delort and Englishman Stephy Mavididi have struck 32 of them, although the latter is yet to provide an assist for his teammates this season.

Lille possible starting lineup:
Maignan; Celik, Fonte, Botman, Reinildo; Sanches, Andre, Soumare, Bamba; Ikone, Yilmaz

Montpellier HSC possible starting lineup:
Omlin; Sambia, Hilton, Congre, Cozza; Ferri, Savanier, Mollet; Laborde, Delort, Mavididi

We say: Lille 1-0 Montpellier HSC

Barring their impending showdown with Lyon, Lille will not be presented with any tougher assignments during the home straight of their charge towards the Ligue 1 crown, and Montpellier's bright attacking trio are capable of breaching almost any defence. The hosts' home record and the visitors' away form does not exactly inspire confidence within either squad, but we still think Galtier's title hopefuls have what it takes to break the 70-point mark and end Montpellier's hot streak at the Stade Pierre Mauroy, although it will not be a cakewalk.

Top tip

Our expert tipster partners at Sporita.com are predicting a double chance bet on a home win or an away win in this match. Click here to find out what else they are predicting for this game and for more of their tried-and-tested football tips.Home/Away:data

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