The Bollaert-Delelis stadium will come to the boil on Saturday with RC Lens poised to clinch second place in Ligue 1 and with it its first ticket to the Champions League group phase in 21 years.
Victory against an already-relegated AC Ajaccio would ensure Lens a top-two finish which brings an automatic spot in Europe’s elite club competition.
With two games left the title is virtually out of reach with Paris Saint-Germain leading by six points and with a much better goal difference, but Olympique de Marseille trails Lens by five points and could steal second place if ‘Les Sang et Or’ slip up.
Franck Haise’s team, assembled with the league’s 10th biggest budget of 62 million euros ($68.25 million), rarely disappoints the home fans though, having taking 49 points from a possible 54 on its own patch.
With a close relationship to its fans and a squad punching above its weight in the French top flight, Lens has also drawn comparisons to the fictional AFC Richmond side from TV show ‘Ted Lasso’.
“There’s a lot of energy and excitement in the dressing room but that’s nothing new,” said Haise, who will be without suspended wing back Przemyslaw Frankowski on Saturday but will welcome defender Kevin Danso back to the side.
While the crowd will greet the side with a rendition of the spine-chilling ‘Les Corons’ - a 1980s French hit paying tribute to the miners of northern France - there are no post-game celebrations planned, officially.
“There is no euphoria,” said attacking midfielder Florian Sotoca.
“I found the team very calm. We’ve only lost four games this season. We deserve to live these moments, it’s every player’s dream.”
After winning its only French title in 1997-98, Lens entered the Champions League the following season, beating Arsenal at Wembley in a group fixture.
It knows it is within touching distance of the competition once again but is taking nothing for granted.
“We have enough experience to know that it will be hard if we don’t respect our opponents. Staying at the highest level for so long is new to us,” said Sotoca.
“It’s exhausting. It will be a great moment with our fans but we have not been talking about celebrations. We are not in the Champions League yet.”
PSG travels to Racing Strasbourg and will clinch a record-breaking 11th title if it avoids defeat, while the fight for European places sees fourth-placed Monaco, on 65 points, travel to Stade Rennais, which is sixth and three points behind.
Fifth-placed Lille (63 points) hosts Nantes, which is fighting for survival. The Canaries are 17th and a point away from safety.
A place above them, AJ Auxerre travels to 13th placed Toulouse, which has little to play for and has already qualified for the Europa League by winning the French Cup.
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