In terms of form there is only one team in it as on-song VfL Wolfsburg visit out-of-tune LOSC Lille needing a point to advance at their expense. Hope reigns supreme, though.
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René Girard says LOSC Lille will not go down without a fight as they seek to upset the form book and snatch a UEFA Europa League round of 32 berth from VfL Wolfsburg's grasp.
The on-song German outfit hold the whip hand in the race for the runners-up spot behind Everton FC in Group H. A point in northern France on Thursday will seal their place in Monday's draw but if LOSC can somehow arrest their downward spiral and win then it is Girard's side that will advance. On paper, though, there is only one victor.
LOSC were top of Ligue 1 in September but have suffered a remarkable fall from grace, a return of three points in eight games seeing them drop to 15th. No time like the present, then, to return to winning ways. "We've had a sluggish campaign so far, but this is a final," says Girard. "We're not in a positive place at the moment, but that can change from one day to the next.
"We know Wolfsburg are a very good team, but we won't go down easily. We hope we can surpass ourselves. There is no maths to do – it is a simple equation. We won't rest easy having got this far. We're not expecting an easy match – we know all about German football. To get a good result against them, we'll need a great performance."
The French team looked set for a first win in 12 on Sunday at fellow strugglers RC Lens, only for Adamo Coulibaly's 90th-minute equaliser to deny them. Wolfsburg coach Dieter Hecking is using another 1-1 draw as a point of reference for his squad, though – the one four days earlier against French champions Paris Saint-Germain.
LOSC's slump has coincided with Wolfsburg's manifest upturn in fortunes. Since 2 October's 1-1 draw with Lille the Wolves have won ten out of 12, and Saturday's 3-1 triumph at Hannover 96 cemented them in second in the Bundesliga. Hecking, though, is not falling for the charm of complacency. "From the very start I said this would be a complicated group," he warned, with his team currently three clear of their hosts.
"It has been a bumpy ride, but we know what we need to do. I try not to talk about a 'final' with the players, to avoid adding to the pressure. We only need one point to qualify but the players will aim for victory, as they always do – they don't need me to be motivated. The players must prove to themselves that they can do it. I have a good feeling."