uefa.com gives its mid-term report on French UEFA Cup contenders Lille OSC.
Each day until 31 December uefa.com will assess the fortunes of a UEFA Cup participant. Today we look at Lille OSC.Victory over AS Monaco FC on the final day of last season enabled Lille OSC to leapfrog FC Girondins de Bordeaux into third place in the French championship and gave the north-coast outfit the chance to claim a berth in the UEFA Champions League.
Champions League debut
Parma AC were duly defeated 2-1 on aggregate in the third qualifying round and Vahid Halihodzic's side found themselves in the Champions League for the first time in their history - drawn in a tough section with Olympiakos Piraeus FC, RC Deportivo La Coruña and Manchester United FC.
But far from being daunted by the task in hand, LOSC pushed United close for the runners-up spot in the group, only missing out when they were held at home by the 1999 champions on Matchday Six.
LOSC had begun their Group G campaign against the English side too, only failing to record a creditable goalless draw when David Beckham scored a last-minute winning goal at Old Trafford stadium. Goals from Dagui Bakari, Bruno Cheyrou and Grégory Tafforeau helped the French side to a 3-1 win over Olympiakos and Adekamni Olufade's goal three minutes from time against Deportivo salvaged a point.
LOSC's assault on the Champions League became a stiffer task after throwing away a one-goal lead in Greece as Olympiakos ran out 2-1 winners. Even though Cheyrou was on target in another 1-1 draw with Deportivo, only a convincing victory over United would have been enough to carry the side through to the second stage. A 1-1 draw meant the French team were forced to settle for a place in the UEFA Cup.
After joining the competition at the third-round stage, tireless running from Bakari and Salaheddine Bassir coupled with Stéphane Pichot's excellent service from out wide helped LOSC to a comfortable 3-0 victory over two legs against AC Fiorentina. LOSC have since been handed a fourth-round clash with BV Borussia Dortmund, with the enticing prospect of a possible all-French quarter-final with Olympique Lyonnais awaiting them if they win.
Poor recent run
When the sides met in Le Championnat in November, Lyon ended LOSC's six-month unbeaten run with a convincing 4-2 victory. Rocked by that loss, and with one eye on extending their run in Europe, two further domestic defeats have caused LOSC to slip to fourth place in the table, five points behind leaders RC Lens.