AC Milan midfielder Kaká had identified the French club as favourites to join them in the last 16 before Matchday 5, but Claude Puel's team are now up against it and may still be eliminated even if they win at the San Siro on 6 December. A home triumph over RSC Anderlecht combined with a victory or draw for the Rossoneri at AEK Athens FC last Tuesday would have settled matters in Lille's favour, but they twice surrendered the lead in a 2-2 stalemate in Lens. The scoreline that really hurt, though, was the Greek outfit's 1-0 defeat of Milan the same evening.
That leaves the Ligue 1 side a point behind second-placed AEK and consigned to bettering the Athens team's result in Brussels in what is sure to be a tense final round of matches. "We're in an uncomfortable position," admitted Lille striker Nicolas Fauvergue. "We have no choice now - we need all three points in Milan and everyone knows how tough that's going to be. We also have to hope that Anderlecht beat AEK, because it's possible that we could end up with nothing."
Indeed, Lille are not even assured of a UEFA Cup spot and the uncertainty of the situation is playing on the players' minds. As left-back Grégory Tafforeau explained: "We can still go through but we can also finish bottom, and it's difficult when you have everything to gain and everything to lose." Tafforeau is keeping faith, however, not least because Milan's Serie A form has been indifferent of late. "It's not mission impossible for us," he added. "Milan are safe and they're going through a bad patch, so we can still pull this off."
Ironically, for all the progress Lille have made this year - especially as an attacking force - they find themselves in a similar position to last season. Then, they required victory at Villarreal CF on Matchday 6 to be sure of going through yet left Spain 1-0 losers, a bitter memory the club had hoped to banish by sealing qualification before their daunting final fixture. That has not happened, and there are sure to be recriminations if results next month leave them with a bad case of déjà vu.
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