Why RC Lens could win Ligue One? And who have been the key players so far

Racing Club de Lens have shocked Europe this season with their domestic performances so far.  The one-time French champions have maintained the pace of star-studded Paris Saint Germain at the top of Ligue One and have a genuine outside chance of winning the French top flight. After 19 games played Lens had 44 points and trailed PSG by three points, which is remarkable considering the huge difference in investment between the two squads.

PSG could focus on the UCL

Lens’ golden era came in the late 1990s in which they won the only major honours in their history; a sole league win in 1997/98, followed by a French League Cup win in the following season. This season they could finally end their trophy drought of over 20 years as title rivals PSG will be heavily focused on their UEFA Champions League campaign in which they are one of the favourites to claim victory. In the sports betting for the competition, they are offered at 7/1 to finally win club football’s greatest prize. Paddy Power’s UCL betting tips suggest Manchester City are more likely to claim their maiden triumph, however, as they are still favoured by tipsters even though lost to their city rivals in the league and were dumped out of the League Cup in the same week.

Pep Guardiola’s side are offered at odds of 13/8 to lift the trophy in Istanbul. Lens will at least hope to qualify for next year’s UCL with their league finish this season, but beating a distracted PSG side to the title is certainly a possibility. But who have been the leading Lens players this season?

Seko Fofana

The Ivorian midfielder is arguably the club’s most important player overall, he is a complete box-to-box midfielder and lacks very few traits in his game. Fofana could be likened to his compatriot Yaya Toure in terms of his play style and physicality. He covers every blade of the grass, on and off the ball, and is vital for his team in the defensive and offensive areas. Fofana is the calibre of a player that automatically elevates the level of the players surrounding him. His creative stats also show that he is key in Lens’ build-up play. According to WhoScored, he had managed a 90% pass completion rate halfway through the season which shows he rarely loses possession.

Florian Sotoca

The veteran French striker has been one of the club’s most frequent sources of goals this season. Sotoca is not the quickest and most agile forward, but his movement off the ball to get into goalscoring positions has been hugely impressive. He had found the net seven times this season at the halfway point and is experiencing a late peak in his career after spending many years in the French lower leagues.

Brice Samba

The former Nottingham Forest goalkeeper has struggled to evade media attention wherever has been in the past year. He was Forest’s shoot-out hero in the playoffs last season and at his new club in France, he has been just as vital. Lens’ conceded just 13 goals in the first 19 games of the season as Samba made an instant impact. He has been linked with moves back to England, but in the near future, he will help Lens in their pursuit of Ligue One success.

Many players have impressed for Lens this season, but a minority have arguably performed at a level that rivals Europe’s best. PSG are set to be under significant pressure in their title defence this season, perhaps the 1998 champions could shock Europe and pip the likes of Lionel Messi to a famous title victory in June.