Arsenal, Barca and Liverpool’s January to be shaped by Wolfsburg v Lille
Champions League Group G goes down to the wire on Wednesday, and the ramifications of the outcome will stretch far further than just Lille, Red Bull Salzburg, Sevilla and Wolfsburg.
Just three points differentiate the three clubs and almost nothing is decided. All four teams can still progress through to the last 16 of the competition, while Lille are the only ones guaranteed to be playing European football in the spring, with a trip to the Europa League the worst they can do.
A host of teams will be keeping a close eye on the outcome of the pool with regards their January plans, with the Ligue 1 side the club that most will be watching.
As things stand, Lille, who spectacularly one Ligue 1 last term, showing resolve to hold off Paris Saint-Germain down the stretch, are on course to secure a precious spot in the knockout stages.
Troubled financially, this would represent a huge boon to the club and may allow them to keep hold of a host of stars until the summer at least.
Progress to the knockout stages would earn Lille a windfall of at least €25.4 million – effectively the equivalent of a significant sale – and would likely allow them a greater capacity to keep hold of their key figures in the January window.
Around €10m of that figure is on the line as they go to Wolfsburg.
Who could be up for sale?
There is no shortage of interest in Lille stars ahead of January – not least because they might be available relatively cheaply given the club’s monetary issues.
Portugal international midfielder Renato Sanches is the player who is most closely and regularly linked with a move. A whole host of clubs are chasing him, including Liverpool, Manchester City, Barcelona, Newcastle and Milan.
In defence, meanwhile, the strong performances of Sven Botman as LOSC won Ligue 1 last season have not gone unnoticed. The Netherlands youngster has been linked with Liverpool and Newcastle in the past, with the St James’ Park side still thought to be closely monitoring him ahead of the transfer window.
Finally, Jonathan David’s electric Ligue 1 form has caught the eye for Arsenal, a club desperate for firepower. The Canada international has scored 11 Ligue 1 goals this season and is the only player in the whole league into double figures.
A draw or victory against Wolfsburg will secure Lille's passage to the last 16 and will ease the pressure on them to sell.
It should be stressed, however, that Lille are fighting only to postpone these sales. All are likely to be on in the summer unless there is a dramatic turnaround in their fortunes.
Nevertheless, the outcome of Lille’s Wolfsburg trip promises to have far-reaching consequences for some of Europe’s strongest sides.