By Robin Bairner
Fixture between Paris Saint-Germain and Lille represents the biggest domestic match of the French season, with last season’s champions meeting the side hotly tipped to steal their crown from them.
While Lille’s climb to the top has been steady and measured, PSG have simply exploded over the last six months, fuelled by Qatari investors eager to raise the profile of the Parc des Princes outfit.
In this regard, perhaps the two players who most signify the values of their clubs will line up in what promises to be a spectacular head-to-head. Eden Hazard was carefully nurtured through Lille’s youth ranks, brought into the first team as a raw 16-year-old in 2007, and has since grown into a Ligue 1 Player of the Year, while Javier Pastore was captured for a national record €40 million (£33.6m) by les Parisiens in the summer.
Comparisons have inevitably been drawn between the pair, with team-mates and pundits offering their opinion as to who is the greater player. Many have been non-committal, with Lille defender Aurelien Chedjou explaining to Nord Eclair: "It’s not that easy [to pick], but both are big stars of the game. What is certain is that I would not trade Hazard for Pastore."
Pastore has been criticised in the press for a recent dip in form, while Hazard has accelerated, gaining strength as the season has progressed. However, he did not make the early impact of his South American rival, who was to the forefront as PSG reached the summit of the league before being caught by unlikely challengers Montpellier.
With the halfway point of the season approaching, which of these stars presently has the upper hand?