Lille coach Christophe Galtier has called on his players to seize their moment for Ligue 1 title glory as they take on Metz on Friday night with the chance to go six points clear at the top.
“This is a rare occurrence in a career,” said the 54-year-old during an interview with the French news agency AFP.
“Going into the 31st game of the season, we are first and we’re three, four and five points ahead of the other three teams."
Lille put themselves in that position last Saturday. They went into the clash at pacesetters Paris Saint-Germain second on goal difference.
Jonathan David scored the only goal of the game which ended with PSG’s Neymar and Lille’s Tiago Djalo sent off for a second yellow card following an ugly scuffle on the touchline at the end of the match.
“There are seven games and 21 points to play for,” added Galtier. “But the opportunity for the title is there. We must give ourselves every chance. The main thing is to have no regrets."
Lille have not hoisted the Ligue 1 trophy since 2011 when a young dazzle named Eden Hazard also helped them to the Coupe de France.
Only Montpellier and Monaco have managed to wrest Ligue 1 away from an expensively assembled PSG outfit in the intervening years.
Nearly 500 million euros worth of attacking talent alone lined up for last Saturday's clash at the Parc des Princes in the shape of Neymar, Kylian Mbappé and Angel Di Maria.
But the troika's firepower failed to pierce battleship Lille - a sign, says Galtier, of his team’s collective grit.
“I think there is a little less individual talent than in the three other teams fighting for the title,” conceded Galtier who has led the squad since December 2017.
“If we don't have this collective spirit, we can't fight with PSG, Monaco and Lyon for the title. We have to put in the work. We can’t let up.”
Lille’s recent slips have occurred when they have been expected to cruise to victory.
They lost control of the league just before the break for international fixtures on 21 March when they went down 2-1 at home to relegation threatened Nimes and PSG won 4-2 in Lyon.
“I showed the team pictures from the Nimes game and was very calm," said Galtier. "They could see that there wasn’t the collective effort.”
Victory and a six point cushion would increase the pressure on PSG who play at Strasbourg on Saturday afternoon following an exhausting 3-2 win at Bayern Munich on Wednesday night in the first-leg of their Champions League quarter-final.
PSG host Bayern in the return on Tuesday night.
"PSG has the best team," Galtier added. "But they have lost eight times. That's a lot. It gives hope to all the teams that face them and not just the direct competitors. This title race has been my biggest challenge."