LOSC Lille Métropole coach Rudi Garcia will not allow his side to sacrifice European football for a tilt at the Ligue 1 title, demanding his players secure the victory at home to KAA Gent in Group C that will send them through to the UEFA Europa League round of 32.
The Belgian side have a two-point advantage heading to northern France and Garcia is expecting his charges to overturn the deficit at the Stade Lille Métropole as they approach their domestic winter break at the top of the French table. "
We don't have to choose between being autumn champions and qualifying for the Europa League round of 32," said the 46-year-old. "It is simple: we have to go for the victory.
"Our results so far have allowed us to play this decider; it's a real do-or-die match," he added. "We now have experience of high-profile European football and are able to compete. We want to continue playing in this competition next spring. Being knocked out would be a big disappointment but we're not even thinking about that."
Five points from as many matches, including a 1-1 draw at Gent on Matchday 2, have left the two-time French champions on the brink of elimination but captain Rio Mavuba insists they have put any previous disappointments to the back of their minds. "We don't have any regrets about past matches because our qualification hopes are still alive and we're doing well in Ligue 1," said the 26-year-old. "We certainly don't want to have any regrets after tomorrow. It's almost a derby and we want to win."
Gent coach Francky Dury believes his side will progress, however, now they have adapted to European football, winning their last two matches after taking just a point from their opening three games. "It's not the same Lille team as when we last met but it's not the same Gent either," he said. "It's a good challenge; a difficult match for both teams. Qualifying tomorrow would be a real achievement, especially since we started so badly. We still haven't got a single point in our away matches, though, so we can't afford to get ahead of ourselves."
Playing for the draw the Buffalos need to progress alongside section winners Sporting Clube de Portugal is not on the agenda for midfielder Christophe Lepoint. "We won't wait for them but will play our own match," said the 26-year-old. "We'll be wary of Eden Hazard – we know he is a class act – but won't pay too much attention to him.
We may not get another chance like this in our careers, so we have to seize this opportunity and give it all we have got."
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