Paradoxically, it is against the most affordable opponent in its group, PSV Eindhoven, that Lens will experience the most important match of its season in the Champions League on Wednesday (9:00 p.m.) in the Netherlands.
Once the draw for Group B was made, it was probably not PSV that Lensois coach Franck Haise had the most in mind. Rather to Arsenal, second in the English championship last season and clear favorite of this group, and to Sevilla FC, long accustomed to European games.
But thanks to the good draw obtained in Seville (1-1), then to the exploit at home against Arsenal (2-1), it is in this city in the south of the Netherlands that the future of the Sang et Gold in the Champions League will take shape: in case of victory, they will be only one step away from the round of 16.
Lens is second (five points) in a group dominated by Arsenal (six points) but still very tight, with Sevilla and PSV behind (two points each). The Gunners are only one victory away from securing qualification for the final phase, which could come as soon as they receive the Andalusians, who are poorly off to a good start in La Liga (fifteenth), on Wednesday (9:00 p.m.).
In the event of a victory at the same time, Lens can take a comfortable lead over PSV and Sevilla FC, and would only have to hope that neither of these two clubs wins their last two meetings.
But this meeting is also that of the last chance for Peter Bosz's players. “No doubt, it’s an extremely important match,” said the Dutch coach. In the first leg, we tried to play our game, we had chances, we have to be more efficient tomorrow, dominate more, and above all win this match.
Two weeks ago, Lensois and Eindhovenois neutralized each other at Stade Bollaert (1-1), neither team managing to gain an advantage over the other.
But in the warm atmosphere of the Philips Stadium, far from the “intense public” of Bollaert, in the words of Peter Bosz, Franck Haise's players will not be able to afford to be listless for an hour, as during the first leg.
“We had difficulty, despite a good start for ten minutes, to play well defensively, to recover the ball in good conditions, and to play, to free ourselves, regretted the coach of the Artesian club after the meeting. It took us a while to find the right carburetion on both sides, at least half the time.”
Since then, Lens has finally freed itself in attack, rewarding its audience with its first offensive demonstration in Ligue 1 against Nantes (4-0), before being slowed down in Lorient (0-0) in difficult weather conditions.
“It’s not a setback,” commented Franck Haise after the meeting. But any result other than a victory against PSV will be with a view to qualifying for the round of 16.