Written By: Abidoye Babatunde
Neither Rennes nor Lille are yet to find their stride, but both are expected to be in the mix for the Champions League places come the end of the season, making Saturday’s clash at the Roazhon Park a potentially decisive one, even this early in the season.
When Bruno Genesio’s side thumped Metz 5-1 on matchday one, they wouldn’t have expected to have to wait until the international break to get their next win. Rennes haven’t reproduced the attacking fluidity shown during that match, and whilst Jérémy Doku’s departure to Manchester City is a mitigating factor, there is still the wealth of young, vibrant, attacking talent in this side to cause the best sides problems.
Weeks back, Martin Terrier, a former Dogue, had earmarked this match as the scene for his return. The Frenchman is now taking part in first-team training, eight months after a season-ending ACL injury. Whilst he won’t feature against his former side on Saturday, he is nearing a return, and given Rennes’ recent performances, it will be a welcome one.
Fonseca critical of Lille’s transfer dealings
However, in Lille, Rennes come up against a side also struggling for rhythm. Not all is well at the Stade Pierre-Mauroy at the start of the season. Prior to a slender 1-0 victory over Montpellier before the international break, manager Paulo Fonseca bemoaned the club’s transfer business, arguing that his side is weaker now than at the start of the window. “Honestly, I’m really disappointed because it’s difficult. We are the only European Ligue 1 side with just one striker. I think I should be honest with people: we don’t have the capacity to fight with other teams, to have the same objectives,” said the Portuguese manager.
Given André Gomes’ return to Everton, Carlos Baleba’s move to Brighton and the expiry of Jonas Martin’s contract, it is certainly hard to argue that Les Dogues’ midfield has the same strength and depth as last season. Given Lille’s participation in the UEFA Europa Conference League this season, the squad could be stretched to its limits.
Arguably, it already is. Lille narrowly overcame Rijeka to make the group stages of the Conference League, but in the league, they are lacking rhythm and consistency. Les Dogues’ first victory of the season was followed by a 4-1 loss to Lorient. Fonseca’s side bounced back with the narrowest of victories over Montpellier before the break, however, Rennes, even without Arnaud Kalimuendo, who will be absent for the next weeks, will be a sterner test. A win for either side could count for a lot come the end of the season.
Rennes: Mandanda; Truffert, Theate, Omari, Aguilar; Le Fée, Matic, Bourigeaud; Gouiri, Blas, Doué
Lille: Chevalier; Alexsandro, Yoro, Santos; Gudmundsson, Gomes, André, Yazici; Cavaleiro, David, Cabella
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