Sports Mole previews Sunday’s Ligue 1 clash between Lille and Auxerre, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.
Auxerre‘s first game back in Ligue 1 for the 2022-23 season sees them travel to the Stade Pierre-Mauroy to face dethroned champions Lille on Sunday.
Les Dogues could only muster a 10th-placed finish under Jocelyn Gourvennec last season, while their visitors overcame Saint-Etienne in the playoffs to rise into the top tier.
Much was made of Jocelyn Gouvennec’s appointment to the Lille hotseat last term after Christophe Galtier took up a new adventure with Nice, and despite kicking off his reign with Trophee des Champions success over Paris Saint-Germain, the following months were unsatisfactory to say the least.
Making it through to the last-16 of the Champions League did lead to muted cheers within the Stade Pierre-Mauroy, but they were quickly dispatched by Chelsea, but their Coupe de France run ended in the last-32 stage, and a futile challenge for the European places did not materialise.
The Dogues board have sought to address such managerial concerns by welcoming the former Roma boss Paulo Fonseca to the dugout for the 2022-23 campaign, but a mass exodus of players has been seen Renato Sanches, Sven Botman, Zeki Celik, Burak Yilmaz and Xeka all department.
Mohamed Bayo represents the only statement signing for Lille so far – joining for a £12.6m fee from Clermont – and he will hope to form an effective partnership in the final third with Jonathan Davidwho has hinted that this year will be his last at the French club.
Fonseca’s side overcame Cadiz, drew with Las Palmas and lost to Espanyol in their Spain-themed pre-season period, and they welcome Auxerre to their headquarters seeking to post just a second win from six home games in Ligue 1 since the start of April.
Neither Ajaccio nor Toulouse were prepared to be usurped by Auxerre in their bids to earn automatic promotion back to the top division, and Jean-Marc Furlan‘s side were forced to pit their wits against Saint-Etienne in the playoffs for their chance to join their Ligue 2 counterparts.
After two 1-1 draws home and away, the dreaded penalty shootout would decide the fate of the two sides for the 2022-23 season, and Auxerre dispatched all five of their penalties while Ryad Boudebouz failed to convert for Saint-Etienne, ultimately sending them down.
The disgraceful scenes of flare-wielding Saint-Etienne fans storming the pitch and crowding both sets of players overshadowed what should have been a joyous occasion for Auxerre, who are back in Ligue 1 for the first time since their 2011-12 relegation.
Furlan’s side have not exactly made waves in the transfer market, but the additions of Benoit Costil and Dennis Bain will provide some much-needed experience of the Ligue 1 landscape, and they won four of their five final pre-season friendlies ahead of Sunday’s opener.
Lille and Auxerre locked horns in last season’s Coupe de France third round, and Les Dogues ran out comfortable 3-1 winners on the day, but a much-changed XI will take to the field for the hosts this time around.
Lille pre-season form:
Auxerre pre-season form:
Lille are set to be without Gabriel Gudmundsson and Timothy Weah for the opening weekend due to an accumulation of yellow cards, meanwhile Amadou Onana is understood to be closing in on a move to Everton.
With Domagoj Bradaric also leaving for Salernitana, Ismaily should start at left-back after signing from Shakhtar Donetsk, with Tiago Boy likely to partner Jose Fonte in the heart of the backline.
Jonas Martin will likely be Benjamin Andre‘s new midfield partner for the opening weekend, as Angel Gomes, Edon Zhegrova, Remy Cabella and Yusuf Yazici battle it out for starts in the wide areas.
Meanwhile, Auxerre have no players suspended for the opening day, but centre-back Theo Pellenard suffered a torn knee ligament in pre-season and will be out for a number of months.
Bain could therefore slot straight into the Auxerre defense in front of Costil, as captain Birama Toure anchors the midfield from their 4-1-4-1 formation.
Kays Ruiz-Atil will aim to reignite his embryonic career under Furlan after joining as a free agent, while the visitors’ line should be led by Gaetan Charbonnier.
Lille possible starting lineup:
Jardim; Zedadka, Djalo, Fonte, Ismaily; Zhegrova, Martin, Andre, Bamba; David, Bayo
Auxerre possible starting lineup:
Costil; Pereira, Bain, Jubal, Bernard; Tours; Hein, Raveloson, Sakhi, Perrin; Charbonnier
We say: Lille 2-0 Auxerre
Lille’s reshuffled defense may take a bit of time to gel with each other, but they should not be troubled by Auxerre this weekend, nor Furlan’s side experience a baptism of fire on their return to the big time.
The visitors may have got the better of Ligue 1 opposition in Saint-Etienne last season, but the Fonseca revolution ought to begin in winning fashion for Les Dogues here.
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