Scout Report: Lille OSC in confident mood ahead of Thursday night Celtic Park meeting
The last thing any Celtic fan probably wants right now is to meet one of the form sides in European football.
Life is like that, though. Christophe Galtier’s side face an emotionally depleted Celtic for our final rodeo in the Europa League this season. Celtic are already out, but have pride to play for. Lille are already through.
It’s a nightmare scenario. Lille have nothing to lose but their run of unbeaten matches, and you can bet they won’t be in the mood for lying down on Thursday night.
It’s a run of form that will cause concern at Lennoxtown.
What to look out for
Lille’s 2-1 win over Niko Kovac’s Monaco (ESPN) was just another in a litany of recent successes for Christophe Galtier’s team. The French outfit have only lost one competitive game in 20-21, and are within touching distance of PSG at the summit of Ligue 1.
You might be asking yourself why they’re in the Europa League with form like that. However, they are, and Celtic need to deal with them.
In a 2-2 away draw (BBC), Celtic showed signs of life before capitulating to a deflected effort by Ikone and an act of nominative determinism from Zeki Çelik. The wonderfully-named right-back isn’t Lille’s main Turkish delight, however.
Yusuf Yazici is on dynamite form for the French side, with 6 goal involvements from 12 games (Transfermarkt) in Ligue 1. Boasting frankly obscene technical ability, dead-ball nous and a scoring touch, his numbers in the Europa League are an even sorer sight for sore eyes: he has 6 goals in 5 games.
Along with Canadian marksman Jonathan David, Yazici will need constant watching. Lille are a side who love to shoot from distance but keep their passing short, aiming to contain the opposition from their half.
It’s that long shots thing that might worry Celtic supporters. With Barkas likely to start on Thursday night, the Greek international will have his hands full – literally.
How to contain Lille’s attacking threat
If Celtic are going to keep Lille to a football score and not a basketball one, they could actually learn some lessons from St. Johnstone at the weekend.
No, here: stay with me. This will sound reasonable in approximately one paragraph’s time.
Lille have recently played with a 4-4-2 but in possession, one of Renato Sanches or Benjamin André (not to be confused with Outkast’s André Benjamin, better known as André 3000) sit deeper in the middle, changing to an attacking 3. Yazici floats into the space behind either David or Yilmaz, leaving a shape not unlike ours.
André or Sanches will be looking to establish quick overlaps with their wingers, by starting possessions through the middle and distributing outwardly. Celtic have done this in 20-21 to mixed results. Elyounoussi’s goal on Sunday was an example of this kind of attack.
Callum Davidson’s St. Johnstone countered this kind of approach by having Ali McCann and Murray Davidson press whoever was carrying the ball in midfield. By doing this, they limited Celtic to a single goal and point. McCann and Davidson’s industry and eye for a pass created overlaps on Frimpong’s side of the pitch specifically, creating opportunities for Stevie May and, sadly, Kane.
By appropriating St. Johnstone’s midfield tenacity, Celtic can make life difficult for Lille. Pressing aggressively will also give Lille’s midfield less time on the ball, and therefore fewer opportunities for long shots.
Lille’s pacy attack requires 100% concentration from Celtic
If, like me, you’re anticipating Neil Lennon to stick with a back 3 for this game, then it’s likely we’ll see Ajer, Bitton and one of Christopher Jullien or Hatem Elhamed.
That being the case, Elhamed will need to be absolutely on it. It’s enough to have to mark one of Yilmaz or David, but it’s likely that the Israeli will have to be wary of Yacizi’s movement on the Lille’s left. Equally, the likely pair of McGregor and Brown will have to avoid cheap fouls at all costs.
Lille will absolutely look for free kicks anywhere below 30 yards from goal. As well they should.
Kristoffer Ajer will have to pick a man and stick to him, while whoever operates the middle should be looking to clean up from the ensuing brand of chaos Lille will bring.