Lille host Inter Milan in the Champions League on Tuesday in a game that is likely to prove pivotal to the French champions’ chances of reaching the knockout phase.
The side from northern France ended a 56-year trophy drought with a league and French Cup double last season and are going well in the current campaign, but in Europe they have been punished for their inability to protect a lead.
Having thrown away a 2-0 lead to draw 2-2 at home to CSKA Moscow in their opening game, they were then held to a 1-1 draw at Trabzonspor despite having led for 45 minutes through Moussa Sow’s 30th-minute strike.
Those results left them third in Group B, two points behind leaders Trabzonspor, and the forthcoming double-header with second-placed Inter is likely to define whether or not they make it into the last 16.
Lille rallied from a goal down to win 3-1 at Auxerre in their most recent league outing on Saturday, with Eden Hazard and loan star Joe Cole coming off the bench to match-winning effect.
The result left LOSC in fourth place in Ligue 1, four points shy of leaders Paris Saint-Germain, and coach Rudi Garcia said he was not surprised by his team’s sluggish start.
“Looking at the rhythm, it was normal that, after a 15-day international break, we were a bit less dynamic and looked a bit leggy in the first half of the match,” he said.
“I’m also pleased that we were able to find a balance between the league and the Champions League, on which we are now focused.”
Midfielder Florian Balmont said the comeback was “great preparation” for Inter’s visit, but victory came at the cost of a quadricep injury to goalkeeper Mickael Landreau that makes him doubtful for Tuesday’s game.
Nigeria international Vincent Enyeama, a summer signing from Hapoel Tel Aviv, stands by to deputise, while winger Dimitri Payet is also a doubt after injuring his left calf against Auxerre.
Garcia can, however, call on the services of centre-back Aurelien Chedjou (thigh) and last season’s top scorer, Sow (ankle), after both overcame injuries.
Lille will take further solace from the fact that they face an Inter side in full-blown crisis, just 15 months on from their Champions League triumph in May 2010.
A 2-1 defeat at Catania on Saturday left Inter fourth from bottom in Serie A and they began their Champions League campaign with a shock 1-0 loss at home to Trabzonspor, before righting the ship with a 3-2 success at CSKA.
Captain Javier Zanetti says the team must stick together in order to emerge from their current slump.
“We’re talking about another defeat (to Catania) and many goals conceded, which isn’t like us,” he said.
“We have to change our thinking. We’re talking about a start that no-one expected. We’re disappointed and bitter, as are the fans, but we have to stick together.
“We’ll try to recover because this team still has a lot to give.”
Zanetti’s Argentine compatriot and midfield colleague Esteban Cambiasso says Inter’s players are struggling to put their finger on where they are going wrong.
“No-one would have ever expected us to start like this. I’m struggling to analyse the situation,” he said after the latest setback in Sicily.
“There’s obviously a number of factors involved. I’m mainly disappointed because we had started to turn it around against Bologna and Moscow, but instead we’ve taken a step backwards.”
Argentina centre-back Walter Samuel has not been included in the squad for the trip to France after limping off during the defeat at Catania.
However, there was better news for coach Claudio Ranieri as playmaker Wesley Sneijder, goalkeeper Julio Cesar and midfielder Thiago Motta are all in contention to play, although Sneijder is yet to train with his team-mates.