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Aston Villa-Lille: Chevalier, André, David and Fonseca, the final four of LOSC

Without making any noise, LOSC is on the verge of completing its most beautiful season since the title of French champion in 2021.

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Aston Villa-Lille: Chevalier, André, David and Fonseca, the final four of LOSC

Without making any noise, LOSC is on the verge of completing its most beautiful season since the title of French champion in 2021. The bankruptcy of the historic ones (Lyon, Marseille, Rennes) and the snags of the others (Nice, Lens) benefit Lille , 4th in Ligue 1 with five points ahead of 5th, at the dawn of the final straight. In addition to seeing qualification in the Champions League, the Northerners dream of the Europa Conference League.

They travel this Thursday (9 p.m.) to the formidable English side Aston Villa. To achieve a result in the quarter-final first leg, Lille will still rely on a trio of players, goalkeeper Lucas Chevalier, midfielder Benjamin André and striker Jonathan David, and on the inspirations of their coach, Paulo Fonseca.

“He has something quite rare among goalkeepers, it’s this serenity. A goalkeeper who reassures his defense makes the difference.” Signed Thierry Henry, coach of the French youth team last March. At only 22 years old, Lucas Chevalier exudes an aura specific to his position, both calm and flamboyant, depending on whether he needs to reassure his teammates or intimidate the opponent. Decisive on his line, he is the 5th goalkeeper in Ligue 1 in save percentage this season (77.2%). An even better figure in his five matches played in the Europa Conference League (83.3%).

In addition to offering defensive guarantees, Chevalier, trained at the club, has transformed into a brilliant restarter. When he was younger, however, he rejected the notion of kicking for a goalkeeper. “My role is to provoke the opposing pressure, because behind each player who comes out, there is a space which opens up for a teammate and a pass which becomes possible,” he explained in So Foot magazine three months ago . The goalkeeper also has “very big potential” as captain, according to Henry. He wore the armband with the Bleuets against Ivory Coast on March 22 (3-2 victory). Perhaps with Lille, where he is experiencing his second season with the A.

It rains and shines in the North, every day without let up. The most used outfield player in Lille this season, Benjamin André is the regulator of the midfield, more of a raker than an organizer. He is the shadow worker par excellence, the one whose absence is much more striking than his presence. “He does the dirty work a lot, playing with him gives you motivation and stimulation to do the same,” his partner Angel Gomes recently praised.

André is "the player with whom many would like to play", noted his former teammate at Rennes Romain Danzé for L'Équipe, because "you know you can count on him, he will never have a moment of slack". Physical and cerebral, André, 33, is also the first to complain to the referees. One of the many forms of leadership perceptible in the Lille captain.

There is this idea in football that having a good goalkeeper and a good scorer is the most important thing. The LOSC results tend to confirm this. With Jonathan David, it is the guarantee of around twenty goals per season. The Canadian, who arrived in 2020, registered 19 during the 2021-22 season, 26 the following and 23 in the current year. He had gone through nine L1 matches without scoring at the start of the fall. Since then, he has scored 19 goals in 21 matches. “There is no secret, it’s work,” he commented after a hat-trick against Le Havre in February. Even if I didn't score in the first part of the season, I still had the opportunities. It was just missing that last detail.”

David, 24, is reaching maturity. If he still plays as a center forward, Paulo Fonseca has often pushed him to venture out to the sides, he who had played a lot of attacking midfielder at the Belgian club La Gantoise and appreciates dropping out. His bad times helped him build his mind. He scored twice in the round of 16 first leg of the Europa Conference League against Sturm Graz (0-3) to show the way to Lille. Place at Aston Villa, while a departure this summer is rumored, potentially to England.

From players to supporters, everyone knows it and says it: Paulo Fonseca is one of, if not the man behind LOSC's great season. For his second season in France, the Portuguese coach has perfected the foundations he has installed. “He insisted on the defensive principles, replacement and the reaction to the loss of the ball, explained Benjamin André in December 2023. Today, we are much more solid.”

His name was on everyone's lips after the victory in the Northern derby against Lens on March 29 (2-1), where he abandoned his usual 4-2-3-1 pattern for 4-3-3. “He makes poker moves, but ultimately, if it happens again and it works, it’s because it’s not a poker move, it’s mastered, we just have to say bravo to him,” praised Lucas Chevalier . “Tactically, he made me progress enormously,” thanked Algerian international Nabil Bentaleb, 29 years old. For a time courted by OM, Fonseca remained in Lille. Great good came to him.

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