New-look Lille set for Marseille curtain-raiser

27 July 2011 02:00

French fans will get a first real glimpse of Lille's new-look line-up when last season's double-winners face Marseille in the season-opening Champions Trophy on Wednesday.

Lille ended a 55-year wait for silverware by beating Paris Saint-Germain 1-0 in last season's French Cup final and then secured a first league title since 1954 by wrestling the Ligue 1 crown from defending champions Marseille.

The two trophies were fitting recompense for a side that has played some of the most attractive football in Europe over the past two years, but close-season departures mean they will never play together again.

France centre-back Adil Rami completed a move to Valencia that was agreed in January, while Ivorian attacker Gervinho joined Arsenal and midfield organiser Yohan Cabaye made an unexpected switch to Newcastle United.

Widely coveted Belgian winger Eden Hazard remains at the club, however, and Lille moved shrewdly in the transfer market by acquiring like-for-like replacements for his three former team-mates.

Marko Basa, who played under Garcia at Le Mans, will replace Rami in the heart of defence, Dimitri Payet has arrived from Saint-Etienne to take Gervinho's place on the flanks and Benoit Pedretti will take over playmaking duties from Cabaye after joining from Auxerre.

Garcia can also call on Czech centre-back David Rozehnal, after his loan move from Hamburg was made permanent.

Another new signing, right-back Laurent Bonnart, was withdrawn during the 1-0 friendly defeat by Saint-Etienne over the weekend, but Garcia said it was merely a precaution.

"Laurent felt his hamstring tighten up, so that's why I took him off immediately," said the Lille coach, who is without injured first-choice right-back Mathieu Debuchy (back).

"I didn't want to take any risks and jeopardise his participation in Wednesday's Champions Trophy, which would be really bad news."

Lille also have doubts over Polish winger Ludovic Obraniak (calf), Payet (knee) and Brazilian striker Tulio De Melo (periostitis).

Wednesday's game, which will take place overseas for the fourth straight season, usually pits the league champions against the French Cup winners, but with Lille holding both titles, OM have stepped into the breach.

Didier Deschamps's side have also lost some familiar faces over the summer break, with left-back Taye Taiwo joining AC Milan and centre-back Gabriel Heinze arriving at Roma after being released from his contract.

OM moved quickly in the market too, however, with Jeremy Morel, Nicolas N'Koulou, Morgan Amalfitano and Alou Diarra all arriving at Stade Velodrome in the early weeks of the transfer window.

Cameroon international centre-back N'Koulou is suspended for the match at Stade de Tanger, while striker Andre-Pierre Gignac did not travel to Morocco as he continues his recovery from a groin problem.

"In terms of pre-season, we're where we were hoping to be," said Deschamps, whose side lost 2-1 to Udinese in their most recent game on Saturday.

"I'm satisfied by the work and the attitude. Things aren't perfect yet, but the players have got the right idea."

Source: AFP

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