There are signs that never fail. For his return to the Champions League this Tuesday against Wolfsburg, Losc will not refuel at the Pierre-Mauroy stadium. Of the 50,000 seats in the enclosure, only 30,000 found a taker. A weak figure for such a competition
“I think the Losc group [Wolfsburg, Salzbourg, Séville] does not make you dream. However, these are three good teams but it is not the kind of adversary hoped for when we go to the Champions League, ”admits Denis, Lille supporter and editor of the Drogue, beer et plot contre le Losc site, a blog specializing in the history of the club.
Not a group victory since 2006!
Beyond the pedigree of the opponents, the recent results of Losc in the European Cup have undoubtedly also cooled a lot of supporters. Two years ago, during the club’s last campaign in the Champions League, Lille had only taken a small point in six games in a strong group (Chelsea, Ajax, Valence). More broadly, Losc fans have been waiting for a home victory in the Champions League group stage since… 2006, ie ten matches in a row (2011, 2012, 2019), a series in progress.
“We are a big dwarf at European level unable to make a career beyond groups. It’s hard to go in the half or in the quarterfinals. We are in the perspective of a club that hopes to go to the round of 16. We have had a good experience in the European Cup compared to a good number of clubs. But we only passed the group stage once, ”admits Patrick Robert, president of the Losc association and historian of the northern club.
A regular presence in Europe without big results
What to wonder if Lille really has a European culture. If we go by the numbers, no doubt. With 118 European Cup games played since 2001 and 13 participations over the past 20 years, the northern club is the fourth most successful French club behind PSG, OL and OM. However, no epic, no match really engraved in the memories except for one night’s shots against AC Milan or Liverpool.
In these conditions, it is difficult to defend the northern performances in the European Cup even for the most fervent fans. “We are often told that Lille never does anything in Europe. Yet there have been victories [en poule] against Manchester, Milan, Seville. Now I have a harder time defending that. When you lose against Bate Borisov or the Azeris of Qarabag, it is difficult to justify. We lack a good European course to be completely legitimate ”, assures Denis.
Internal instability that doesn’t help
Paradoxically, it was when the Losc reached national heights with the double in 2011 that the Mastiffs’ performance began to decline. From 2001 to 2010, Losc reached the knockout stages of a European Cup five times (2002,2005, 2006, 2007, 2010). But for ten years, it is the desert or almost with the exception of the round of 16 lost last season against Ajax. How to explain such lose ?
For Patrick Robert, the internal upheavals at the club for ten years have not helped. “We went from Seydoux to Lopez then from Lopez to Melvyn Partners. Under Seydoux, we are champion thanks to training, under Lopez, there is no more training and today, we start training again. These are things that do not promote long-term stability and fulfillment. The last few years have not been a long quiet river, ”acknowledges the president of the Losc association before concluding with an optimistic message.
Our file on Losc
“Considering where we come from, it’s far from being negative in 20 years. Then you are immersed in a context that is a little beyond you. You have the problem of the draw, the atmosphere, the experience of the players. Me, I consider that a qualification in the Champions League is already a big step forward. We have a small European culture that must be called into question every year, ”says the Lille leader. But for now, the European glass ceiling, essential to break to get into the hearts of the French, remains unbreakable.