Ligue 1 Matchweek 32 preview: Metz vs. Lille (Fri - 21:00h. CET; 20:00h. BST) - Team news, possible lineups
Lille will endeavour to cement their position at the top of the Ligue 1 rankings when they travel to the Stade Saint-Symphorien to take on Metz in Friday's encounter.
The visitors opened up a three-point gap at the top after beating reigning champions Paris Saint-Germain last time out, while Metz have suffered back-to-back defeats to Monaco in the league and Coupe de France.
Just three days after shipping four to Monaco in the top flight, Metz's defensive resilience in the Coupe de France left Les Monegasques unable to find the back of the net once in normal time, and the right to play in the quarter-finals would ultimately be decided from 12 yards.
Nine out of 10 players successfully converted their spot kicks, but Metz midfielder Habib Maiga was the sole player who could not tuck his penalty away and Antonetti's men bowed out of the competition with their heads held high.
It was a vast improvement from Les Grenats after their nightmare at the Stade Louis II in the league, but with any fleeting hopes of silverware in the Coupe de France now dashed, Metz can focus all their energy on an audacious push for the fifth and final European spot in the table.
Having taken just one point from their last four matches in the league, Antonetti's side have slipped to ninth in the table and are seven points behind fifth-placed Lens, but an unlikely triumph against the league leaders would see them pile the pressure on the European-chasing pack before the weekend's fixtures commence.
Metz have not lost three league games in a row since the first three gameweeks of the season, but they have prevailed in just two of their last 11 Ligue 1 games on home soil and have indeed lost three in a row at the Stade Saint-Symphorien, so a taxing week could end in further misery for a fatigued Grenats against an inspired Lille.
Lille came, saw and conquered at the Parc des Princes last weekend, as a 20th-minute strike from Jonathan David propelled Christophe Galtier's side to a potentially decisive result in this enthralling race for the Ligue 1 crown.
The Dogues' victory would be overshadowed by David's injury soon after his goal, as well as late red cards for Neymar and Tiago Djalo after a skirmish, but it is now Lille's title to lose after they opened up a three-point gap at the top of the standings with that historic win in the capital.
The manner of Lille's result is even more impressive considering that PSG swept them aside in the Coupe de France three weeks ago, and their last game before the international break ended in a 2-1 home defeat to relegation-threatened Nimes, so there was hardly a better way for Galtier's side to respond to those setbacks than by prevailing on the champions' turf.
The league leaders have now managed to come up trumps in eight of their last nine away matches in the top flight - keeping a remarkable seven clean sheets in that run to boot - and another three points here would see them temporarily open up a six-point gap at the top before PSG take to the pitch on Saturday.
While the 51 goals they have scored is by far the fewest out of the title-chasing quartet, no team has conceded fewer than the 19 that Lille have shipped this term, as 37-year-old Jose Fonte and a man 16 years his junior in Sven Botman marshal the rearguard admirably in front of Mike Maignan.
An 88th-minute winner from Luiz Araujo propelled Lille to a 1-0 win over Metz earlier in the season, and the league leaders have only suffered one defeat in their last nine league games on Les Grenats' turf - winning seven of them - and the Dogues would have one hand firmly grasped on the trophy if they chalk up their 20th win of the season here.
Metz defender John Boye sat out the Coupe de France defeat to Monaco through suspension, but he returns for this game and could displace makeshift defender Mamadou Fofana in Antonetti's back three.
Alexandre Oukidja will make his long-awaited return to league action after returning from a four-game ban in midweek, but Vincent Pajot and Warren Tchimbembe are out for the rest of the season.
Early-season star Ibrahima Niane remains Metz's top scorer in the league with six goals - despite spending nearly six months in the treatment room - but the striker is finally nearing a return to training after ACL surgery and could play a part in the final few weeks of the season.
David had to be forced off with a sprained ankle just 15 minutes after scoring the winner against PSG, and in a huge blow to the league leaders, he is thought to be facing at least a few weeks on the sidelines.
However, the in-form Burak Yilmaz can deputise well for his strike partner and should earn a place up top for this game, especially with Yusuf Yazici still self-isolating after testing positive for coronavirus.
Renato Sanches started in an unfamiliar right-midfield role against PSG, but the Portuguese midfielder is likely to continue there as Jonathan Ikone remains up front with Yazici and David out of contention.
Djalo's sending off and subsequent suspension leaves Galtier short of right-back options, as Zeki Celik is COVID-positive while Jeremy Pied is nursing a sprained ankle, so Domagoj Bradaric - a left-back by trade - may be forced to switch flanks this week.
Metz possible starting lineup:
Oukidja; Bronn, Boye, Kouyate; Centonze, Angban, Fofana, Delaine; Boulaya; Yade, Vagner.
Lille possible starting lineup:
Maignan; Bradaric, Fonte, Botman, Reinildo; Sanches, Andre, Soumare, Bamba; Ikone, Yilmaz.
Source: Sports Mole / Ben Knapton