Unfavorably placed in its Champions League group, Lens faces Arsenal on Wednesday (9:00 p.m.) in London with its feat from the first leg in mind, to maintain the dream of qualifying for the round of 16.
It’s a mountain that the Sang et Or will try to climb in the English capital, against the natural favorite of Group B, who took control of the Premier League last weekend. But if they reach the summit, they will remain in the race to take part in the spring games of the most prestigious European competition, bringing together the 16 best teams at the end of the first phase.
But before dancing with the stars, there is a path to follow and it is strewn with pitfalls, one of them being PSV, who defeated the Lensois in Eindhoven (1-0) during the last day in the match that could not be lost. Third with five points, Lens no longer has the advantage of direct confrontations with the Dutch club, second with the same number of units. If the Artesian club loses in London and PSV wins in Seville a little earlier (6:45 p.m.), it will only be able to hope for third place leading to the Europa League.
Kevin Danso “fit”
At the top of the group, Arsenal (nine points) is very close to reaching the eighth of the C1. All he needs to do is not lose against Lens, or even hope for a defeat for PSV in Andalusia, in which case even a setback would not prevent him from reaching the final table.
Uncertainty hovered over the presence of Lens defensive rock Kevin Danso, who had to withdraw from Clermont this weekend due to pain, but Franck Haise affirmed Tuesday at a press conference that the Austrian would be “fit”. But there are reasons for hope. First of all, we must remember the major performance achieved in the first leg at the Stade Bollaert, when the club from the mining area overthrew Arsenal (2-1) in an extraordinary atmosphere.
Franck Haise’s players had deployed crazy energy to prevent Mikel Arteta’s players from implementing their polished offensive game. They also managed to demonstrate great technical accuracy to score two nice goals and admirable mental strength to equalize then take the advantage.
Remembering the Wembley feat
The defeat in Eindhoven, after conceding a draw at home in the first leg against this same opponent (1-1), should not make us forget the superb momentum of the Artesian club, engaged in a series of eight matches without defeat in Ligue 1 which allowed it to move up to sixth place after having vegetated in the depths of the ranking. In the league, the Artois club has not conceded a single goal in its last five matches and has found verve in attack, scoring eight times during this period.
“We know that the opponent is stronger than us, recognizes Franck Haise. It is not because he is stronger than us that we are not able to pose problems to him and achieve a result “We have to raise the level in all aspects of the game but we come with this ambition, to at least put ourselves at the level of Arsenal.”
And then beyond the figures, and its good current dynamic, Lens can also remember one of its greatest European exploits, when it managed to win against the Gunners at Wembley (1-0) in front of 73,707 people, almost exactly 25 years ago. On November 25, 1998, a goal from Michaël Debève gave Lensois victory. A gap in their favor on Wednesday evening, however small it may be, will be enough for their happiness.