Everton FC’s trip to Lille is sure to be an excellent game, with Lille finishing third in Ligue 1 last season. But what is the view from France?
Andrew Gibney is a French football journalist who created the excellent French Football Weekly site. He is also a season ticket holder at Lille.
Here’s what he says about the French club and who the Blues have to watch out for.
How have they looked in recent games and is this a good time for Everton to face them?
Everton couldn’t have picked a better time to face Lille. They are not playing well at the moment. Defensively they have been one of the better teams, six clean sheets this season, but upfront it’s been dire. Only eight goals so far, they are struggling to penetrate defences and are being limited to shots form distance. They look void of ideas at times.
Who will be Lille’s dangermen going into the game and how should Everton deal with them?
Sadly Rony Lopes, on loan from Man City is out, he has been great in the No.10 role. Apart from Divock Origi there is no one of any real danger in the squad. Vincent Enyeama, the goalkeeper has been Lille’s hero more often than not. 21 clean sheets last year was an incredible achievement. If he is in the mood he could be the difference.
What are Lille’s main strengths and weaknesses?
The defence is the main strength. In front of Enyeama, they have Simon Kjaer and Marko Basa at centre-back, these two have been superb in the last 12-14 months. The right combination of pace, intelligence, power and strength. They will be tough to break down.
Scoring goals in the biggest weakness. Salomon Kalou left in the summer, he scored 16 goals last season, with him gone, no one has stepped up to replace him. Origi has three already, he got 5 last season, so he is showing signs of improvement. Nolan Roux, Michael Frey and Ryan Mendes have all failed to produce so far.
How will they set up against Everton on Thursday?
With Rony Lopes injured, it will likely be 4-3-3 Girard favours 4-3-1-2, but with a playmaker (Marvin Martin could play, but has been awful) he has gone with pace down the wings, trying to hit on the break. The lack of creativity in midfield is obviously apparent. It’s been poor to watch at times. Lille will try and soak up the pressure and look to hit on the break.
What do people in France make of Roberto Martinez’s team? Do they know a great deal about Everton? Are they excited about the game?
In all honesty, Everton is not a team that has really hit the radar in France, but the the Lille fans do know about them. The Premier League is probably watched more than Ligue 1 on TV and with Kevin Mirallas, an ex-Lille player, playing at Goodison, they are fairly well known. Then with Romelu Lukaku moving there and Lille being so close to the border, they are not an unknown quantity.
How has the manager, Rene Girard, fared since taking over from Rudi Garcia? How does he like his teams to play?
Girard has had to play with a much smaller budget than Garcia and he’s still clearing up some of the mess that the Roma boss left. It’s much changed times. Garcia loved to attack, Girard is all about defence and organisation first. He’s rather win 1-0 than 3-1 – it is sometimes hard to watch. Lille still try and control possession, but they are not as swashbuckling and exciting as they used to be. This always has to do with the players they have lost like Hazard, Payet, Gervinho. It’s a team void of stars at the moment.
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