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Lille, Brest fight for Champions League spot as French season ends


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The fight for direct Champions League qualification between Lille and surprise package Brest is the main outstanding issue to be decided in this weekend's final games of the French Ligue 1 season.

Paris Saint-Germain were confirmed as champions for a record-extending 12th time late last month with three games to spare.

Monaco have secured second spot, thereby confirming a return to the Champions League for the first time since 2018/19.

Behind them it is between Lille and Brest to see who takes the third automatic berth in Europe's elite club competition and who has to settle for fourth place.

The expansion of the Champions League from 32 teams to 36 from next season -- clubs will go into one single pool and will each play eight games against different opponents rather than eight groups of four teams -- has benefited France.

Ligue 1 will now have three automatic spots in the competition rather than two, while the team finishing fourth will have to come through two preliminary rounds early next season.

Lille sit third before hosting Nice, who are certain to finish fifth and will go into next season's Europa League.

However Lille, who got to the Champions League last 16 in 2022, have an extremely fragile lead over Brest -- they are ahead only by a difference of two goals, and both clubs have scored the same number of goals.

"Even though we are in third, we know we will have to win our last match against Nice, which will be very, very difficult," said Lille coach Paulo Fonseca, linked with close-season moves to AC Milan and Marseille, after his team beat Nantes last weekend.

Brest had never finished above eighth in the top flight before this season and a guaranteed best-ever performance in this campaign means they are preparing to play in Europe for the first time.

They are currently looking for a place to host matches in continental competition, after being told by UEFA that they could only open one stand if they chose to play at their own Stade Francis-Le Ble due to safety reasons.

Brest had been in the top three since late February but slipped to fourth last weekend after winning just once in five.

The team managed by Eric Roy, who has been named Ligue 1's coach of the year, finish the season at Toulouse.

"We will see if we go into the big one, or into the Europa League," said Roy last week.

"But in any case what we have done already is exceptional."

Elsewhere, Lens, Lyon and Marseille will fight it out to see who finishes sixth and seventh.

Sixth is guaranteed a European place, but seventh will too, provided PSG win the French Cup final and Lyon, their opponents, do not finish in the top six.

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