The first piece of silverware in the 2021-22 French football season is up for grabs on Sunday, as Lille and Paris Saint-Germain renew hostilities at the Bloomfield Stadium in Tel Aviv for the right to lift the trophy aloft.
Les Dogues dethroned the capital side as Ligue 1 champions during an enthralling 2020-21 campaign, although PSG restored some parity with a Coupe de France triumph.
Under the tutelage of the recently-departed Christophe Galtier, Lille's dogged and determined nature propelled them to the unlikeliest of Ligue 1 triumphs for the first time in a decade, as a 2-1 win versus Angers on the final day of the season saw Les Dogues finish one point clear of PSG atop the pile.
Adding a long-awaited domestic crown to the silverware cabinet and an impending return to the Champions League was not enough to convince Galtier to stay on, though, as the 54-year-old stepped down from his post merely 48 hours after securing the Ligue 1 crown, having achieved what he set out to do before taking on a new challenge with Nice.
The appointment of Jocelyn Gourvennec as Galtier's replacement was underwhelming to say the least - with the 49-year-old winning just seven of his 32 games in charge during his second spell at Guingamp in the 2018-19 season - and his Lille side have flattered to deceive in pre-season so far.
Indeed, the Ligue 1 champions opened their exhibition campaign with a 2-0 success against Belgian outfit Waasland-Beveren before suffering defeats to Gent, Benfica and Porto, with the latter team claiming a 2-0 win last weekend against an almost full-strength Lille side.
Not since 2011 have Lille stepped foot onto the turf for the Trophee des Champions - a day which ended in misery following a 5-4 defeat to an Andre Ayew-inspired Marseille - and a PSG side out for blood are not to be taken lightly.
A highly sought-after trophy continuously eluded Mauricio Pochettino during his time at Tottenham Hotspur, but given the moves that PSG have made in the transfer market, the Argentine can be forgiven for dreaming of a silverware-filled first full season at the Parisiens helm.
Let us not forget that Pochettino took under a fortnight to get his hands on that coveted first trophy of his managerial career, as the former Spurs boss oversaw his side's 2-1 win over Marseille in the most recent Trophee des Champions in January 2021 - a game rescheduled for the winter amid the ongoing coronavirus crisis.
However, Pochettino will not need reminding that his efforts to bring Champions League glory to the Parc des Princes ultimately ended in failure, while a second-placed finish in the French top flight would not have appeased the ever-demanding Parisiens board either.
In spite of a somewhat disappointing first season - where the Coupe de France was PSG's only real saving grace - Pochettino has wasted no time in moulding PSG's squad into his own vision, sending shockwaves in the transfer market with the signings of Achraf Hakimi, Sergio Ramos, Gianluigi Donnarumma and Georginio Wijnaldum - the latter three on free transfers.
Les Parisiens also travel to Tel Aviv boasting an unbeaten record from their pre-season endeavours - recording wins over Le Mans, Augsburg and Orleans - while a recent trip to Portugal to take on Sevilla ended with the two sides shaking hands on a four-goal draw.
PSG's perennial reign of dominance in the French football scene means that they are gunning to win their ninth successive Trophee des Champions crown this weekend, but their most recent battle with Lille ended in a 1-0 defeat - one of the most pivotal wins for Les Dogues during their remarkable 2020-21 season.
Lille right-back Zeki Celik will serve a suspension in the season's curtain-raiser due to an accumulation of bookings, which opens the door for Jeremy Pied or makeshift right-back Tiago Djalo to start in his absence.
Unsurprisingly, several of Lille's title-winning contingent have been the subject of bids from elsewhere, with Mike Maignan and Boubakary Soumare both moving on, while Renato Sanches continues to be linked with a Premier League move.
Early indications show that Gourvennec is set to stick with Lille's title-winning 4-4-2 setup from last season, as the potent front two of Jonathan David and a man 15 years his senior in Burak Yilmaz seek to pick up from where they left off.
In contrast, PSG will have to work around a plethora of first-team absences here, with the team's South American contingent of Marquinhos, Angel Di Maria, Leandro Paredes and Neymar still recovering from their Copa America exploits.
Euro 2020 winners Donnarumma and Marco Verratti - along with Spain's Pablo Sarabia - are also taking more time off, but the quartet of Kylian Mbappe, Presnel Kimpembe, Danilo Pereira and Wijnaldum could make the journey.
As far as PSG's infirmary is concerned, Ramos, Colin Dagba, Rafinha and long-term absentee Juan Bernat are all nursing various issues and will further restrict the options of Pochettino, who should trust his compatriot Mauro Icardi to lead the line.
Lille possible starting lineup:
Jardim; Pied, Fonte, Botman, Reinildo; Araujo, Andre, Sanches, Bamba; David, Yilmaz
PSG possible starting lineup:
Navas; Hakimi, Kehrer, Diallo, Kurzawa; Gueye, Herrera, Draxler; Ebimbe, Icardi, Kalimuendo
We say: Lille 1-1 PSG (PSG to win on penalties)
Lille's penchant for clean sheets last season certainly served them well en route to Ligue 1 glory, but Gourvennec has failed to inspire his newly-assembled troops to a confidence-boosting pre-season campaign.
Les Dogues will be close to full strength for this encounter, though, while PSG ought to field a blend of youth and experience with absentees in the double figures.
However, the French champions are still finding their feet under Gourvennec, and we have confidence in PSG's ability from 12 yards to get them over the line for yet another Trophee des Champions win.
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