Preview: Qabala v Lille – Europa League Qualifying
The first leg of the third qualifying round for the Europa League (where, apart from anything else, you can find your Game of Thrones name by just sticking a pin in the schedule) was as underwhelming as we’d feared – two home draws. Lille and Saint Etienne both head off on tricky away trips with a deal left to do.
Lille did at least manage to score – there was an early goal from Qabala centre-back Vitaliy Vernydub from a what-the-hell-was-he-doing-there-and-why-was-nobody-marking-him situation after a corner, in a first half largely devoid of attacking verve from the home side. Mounir Obaddi limped off early doors to be replaced by Yassine Benzia, and things were looking worrying.
However, shortly after the restart, Renato Civelli crashed a header off the crossbar and Ryan Mendes levelled things up from the rebound, as Lille were transformed for the second half in the Stade Metropole. It ended 1-1, but should really have been so much more, stats putting the home side at 29 shots to 4, as Qabala goalkeeper Dmytro Bezotosniy had a great game and LOSC conspired to put several other chances wide.
The 4-3-3 of the first leg was predicated on a front three of Bautheac-Mendes-Lopes, but the second leg will see the return of Euro hero / killer of dreams Eder, and new acquisition Younousse Sankhare – they both scored for the reserves on Monday. Eder has already reassured us all that he has his white gloves ready for upcoming goal celebrations. Both are in the squad, and should start, and Obbadi is also included. Marko Basa drops out with a foot injury, and will probably be replaced by Adama Soumaoro in central defence. Sofiane Boufal and Junior Tallo remain missing, and Lenny Nangis, who was on the bench for the first leg, has now been loaned to SC Bastia.
Lille will be hoping that Eder’s return means a bit more efficiency in attack; Qabala are solid at home, and with that precious away goal, their approach may be to shut up shop. The LOSC defence will need to stay alert, however, as the first leg showed, and particularly with the enforced change there.
Squad : Enyeama, Maignan, Butez – Corchia, Civelli, Sunzu, Soumaoro, Palmieri, Beria, Pavard – Mavuba, Obbadi, Amadou, Bautheac, Lopes, Amalfitano, Bissouma, Sankhare – Benzia, Mendes, Eder