Timothy Weah opens up on Lille’s struggles ahead of Chelsea Champions League match: ‘It is just not clicking’


Lille OSC head to Stamford Bridge on Tuesday for their UEFA Champions League round of 16 first-leg clash with titleholders Chelsea (catch all the action on CBS and Paramount+) which will see Timothy Weah come up against familiar faces such as Christian Pulisic, Thiago Silva and Thomas Tuchel.

The USMNT star spoke exclusively to CBS Sports ahead of the game about LOSC’s difficult Ligue 1 title defense and the breath of fresh air which as been Les Dogues’ UCL campaign this term and has now pitted them against the London giants.

“We are sitting midtable, so it has been difficult,” Weah said of this season which sees Lille sitting 11th and three points away from Europe. “A lot of changes were made, and it just has not clicked for us yet. Every team has ups and downs and our up was winning the championship last season. There was so much expectation and we wanted to bounce back this year, but it has not worked out like that. As a team, I think that we are handling it well. It is just not clicking and that is very visible.”

Jocelyn Gourvennec’s men are the defending champions wherever they go in France and Weah feels that it shows in each opponent’s performances against them but that there is also an element of bad luck and that their form will turn for the better.

“When you are defending champions, team are going to come out and want to beat you,” said the 21-year-old. “I just feel that this year has been difficult, and we are just not getting the results that we want. We are just going through a rough patch and that is better now than later. We just need to figure it out and find our way out of it.”

One highlight in a campaign littered with frustration so far has been Lille’s unexpected qualification to the knockout phase after advancing from a group which included Sevilla, Red Bull Salzburg, and VfL Wolfsburg.

“It has not been perfect but there have been lots of positives like reaching the next round for the first time in the club’s history which is great,” Weah told CBS. “I felt that we played some good games against Sevilla and Salzburg. It was an interesting and great experience for me and one that I will never forget. I am sure that a lot of the boys will never forget the moment we made the next round. A lot of positives, some negatives, but mostly positives. We are looking forward to playing at Stamford Bridge.”

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The odds are stacked firmly against Weah and his LOSC teammates this midweek but that does not mean that they will abandon all hope of springing an upset before they even take to the Stamford bridge pitch on Tuesday.

“It is always good to have the mindset to want to go into every game winning,” said the former Paris Saint-Germain and Celtic man. “With us up against the previous champions, I think it is always good to have the mindset to go after the but also to stay humble and just play our game. Champions League nights are very different to league games, and I hope that we come out and execute the way we want to. We are all confident and will take it step by step and see what happens in the game.”

Lille were unlucky enough to see the exact same draw both times when the round of 16 was recast due to a computer error with the draw but Weah is approaching it philosophically and looking for the potential silver lining from such a tough task.

“You could say that it is just destiny as we pulled the first time and then pulled them again the second,” he said. “We are meant to play Chelsea and meant to get this experience. I think that Champions League soccer is what it is all about — playing against big teams, seeing the quality of other players, and getting to that level. It is going to be a great experience for us as a team and personally, it is something I have been looking forward to all my life. The Chelseas, the Barcelonas, the Real Madrids and the PSGs — it is fun and a great experience.”

For Weah, the Champions League is a welcome break from the demanding Ligue 1 season which takes its toll physically and mentally so can be unforgiving — especially when you are looking for a run of form.

“In Ligue 1, you know what you are getting and that is aggression and physical guys,” said the New City-born attacker. “In the Champions League, it is about tactics and chance. UCL is super prestigious and brings a different type of energy when you hear that song go off. Champions League is different to league games and both teams will be at the top of their game in the UCL.”

Whether domestically or on the continent, this term has been frustrating for Weah due to form issues created by injuries, a new coach, a team in transition and competition in attack which Jonathan David leads for the Northerners.

“This season has been slow, but I am taking it day after day and step by step,” he said. “As an attacker, you want to score or assist all the time but sometimes it just does not happen. I am going through one of those seasons of just not scoring but I will keep my morale and team spirit high. Whenever I am out there, I give 100% and do what I can. When I am with the USMNT, though, I feel a bit more comfortable, and I am in my happy space when there. It is just a learning experience and I need to keep going and fight through it.”

As for the differences between Gourvennec and Ligue 1-winning boss Christophe Galtier who is now playing his trade with upwardly mobile OGC Nice, Weah rates both but feels that the former has been unlucky this season.

“They are two different coaches with two different styles, two different backgrounds and they were both two different players,” said Weah on the French pair. “I think that they are both great coaches and that they both bring something to the table. We had such a successful year that it is a bit of a rough patch now, but our current coach is a great guy and coach — I love playing for him. It is just not clicking as it should be right now.”

Finally, on the topic of the prolific David, Weah is delighted for his close friend that things are going so well in front of goal and that the Canadian hotshot is second only to Wissam Ben Yedder for Ligue 1 goals with 12 goals alone in the French topflight as well as his three in the Champions League.

“Jonathan is our fox in the box and a top striker,” he said. “I love playing with Jonathan. He is always in the right place at the right time and his confidence is super high right now. You can see him getting the goals here and he is also Canada’s main guy. I am happy for him; he is one of my best friends on the team and I love seeing him succeed.”





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