Chelsea will be aiming to extend their unbeaten run to ten games in all competitions when they travel to France to take on Rennes in the UEFA Champions League.
UEFA Champions League returns to action on Tuesday evening, with Chelsea kicking things off at the Roazhon Park where they will face off against Ligue 1 side Rennes in a Group E encounter.
Having had quite the season last time out, Rennes have endured a mixed start to the 2020/21 campaign. Julien Stephan’s men are currently seventh in the Ligue 1 standings while their fortunes have been much worse in Europe as they are rooted to the bottom of Group E, with just one point from three games.
Les Rennais have lost five of their previous six fixtures in all competitions including each of their last three, with their latest game ending in a narrow 1-0 defeat to Bordeaux at home this past weekend. And they will be hoping to end that streak with a positive result on Tuesday evening.
Chelsea, meanwhile, have been in scintillating form, having recovered from their early-season jitters. The Blues are currently on a nine-game unbeaten streak, winning each of their last five in all competitions. Consequently, Frank Lampard’s side sit third in the Premier League and are at the top of Group E in the Champions League, with seven points from three games.
The last time these two sides met in the reverse fixture at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea triumphed 3-0 courtesy a Timo Werner double and a goal from Tammy Abraham. And a win on Tuesday, coupled with Sevilla beating Krasnodar in the other group game would see Chelsea qualify for the knockout stages. Ahead of their latest meeting, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both teams.
Team News & Tactics
Rennes manager Julien Stephan has a number of roster issues to contend with heading into Tuesday’s game against Chelsea. Key forward M’Baye Niang remains sidelined, as do Faitout Maouassa, Jonas Martin and on-loan Juventus defender Daniele Rugani. Dalbert is suspended for the tie after being sent off in the reverse fixture.
There is some good news though, as Eduardo Camavinga, who is on the radars of almost every top club in Europe, is back to full fitness and featured in the weekend game against Bordeaux. Having set his team up in a 4-2-3-1 formation at the weekend, Stephan is likely to revert to a 4-3-3 on Tuesday, mirroring Chelsea’s shape.
In goal, there is no looking past summer signing Alfred Gomis, who was brought in to replace Edouard Mendy, who left for Chelsea. Hamari Traore is likely to slot in at right-back after not starting at the weekend, while Adrien Truffert should fill in for the suspended Dalbert on the left. Damien Da Silva and Nayef Aguerd should be the two centre-halves.
Now that he is back fit, Camavinga is an undisputed starter in the middle of the park for Rennes. The teenage sensation should be partnered by Steven Nzonzi, who was an unused substitute at the weekend, and Benjamin Bourigeaud. The trio will be key for the hosts if they are to shut off Chelsea’s midfield runners.
The frontline ought to comprise of three summer signings in the form of Serhou Guirassy, who will be flanked by Jeremy Doku and Martin Terrier on the right and left sides respectively.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Gomis; Traore, Da Silva, Aguerd, Truffert; Camavinga, Nzonzi, Bourigeaud; Doku, Guirassy, Terrier
Chelsea have been boosted by the return of Kai Havertz, who is in contention for the game after having recovered from the coronavirus and completed a few days in training, Frank Lampard confirmed. Thiago Silva, who missed the last game, is also travelling to France. However, Christian Pulisic has once again been ruled out.
Some good news to report on @kaihavertz29… 👍
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) November 22, 2020
With a crunch game against Tottenham coming up at the weekend, Lampard is certain to have an eye on it while selecting the team. And the manager did hint towards resting some of his players like Ben Chilwell, who had returned from the international break with a back problem.
There is no looking past Edouard Mendy in goal, though, and the former Rennes man will be keen on impressing on his return to Roazhon Park. Kurt Zouma and Silva should slot in as the two centre-halves, but there could be changes in the full-back slots, with captain Cesar Azpilicueta and Emerson Palmieri stepping in for Reece James and Chilwell, respectively.
There ought to be one alteration in the middle of the park as well, with N’Golo Kante likely to be held back with an eye on the Tottenham game. In his stead, Jorginho should return to the starting lineup, slotting in at the base of the three-man midfield. Mateo Kovacic and Mason Mount should hold on to their spots though, with Havertz likely to get some minutes from the bench.
No changes are expected in the attacking third, however, with the in-form trio of Hakim Ziyech, Tammy Abraham and Timo Werner set to continue, although there is the possibility of Callum Hudson-Odoi getting a start here. Olivier Giroud will provide an option from the bench.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Mendy; Azpilicueta, Zouma, Silva, Emerson; Kovacic, Jorginho, Mount; Ziyech, Abraham, Werner
- Chelsea have won just two of their nine away UEFA Champions League matches against French opponents (D2 L5). However, one of those victories came on their most recent visit to France when they defeated Lille last season.
- Rennes have hosted English opposition just twice in European competitions so far. And the Ligue 1 outfit have come out on top on each occasion, beating Aston Villa in the Intertoto Cup in 2001 and Arsenal in the UEFA Europa League last year.
- Chelsea are one of just two teams that are yet to concede a single goal in their three Champions League matches so far this season, along with fellow Premier League side Liverpool.
- Having not won any of their three fixtures in the Champions League (D1 L2), Rennes became just the second French team after Montpellier to fail to register a victory in their first three games in the competition.
- Chelsea are looking to win three matches on the bounce in the Champions League for the first time since 2015. The Blues have never won three in a row in the competition without letting a single goal since 2013.
Player to Watch
Edouard Mendy's numbers for Chelsea so far:
Shots on Target Faced: 18
Save Percentage: 89%
Post shot xG: 5.01
Goals Actually Conceded: 2
He's out-performing his Post-shot xG by a margin of [3.01] 🔥🙌 pic.twitter.com/piYAGnrn8y
— Nouman (@nomifooty) November 23, 2020
It will be a special occasion for the 28-year-old as he returns to the Roazhon Park only a few months after he left Rennes to join Chelsea. Mendy had played an integral role in Rennes’ brilliant season last time out and has carried on in the same vein of form for his new employers.
In nine appearances for Chelsea, Mendy has kept as many as seven clean sheets, letting in just two goals so far. The Senegalese international has not conceded a single goal in the Champions League so far this term and will be aiming to keep that record intact when he returns to his former home this week.
Rennes 0-3 Chelsea
Rennes come into the game on the back of a run of poor performances and results. And going up against a Chelsea side whose confidence will be sky-high and have momentum on their side, the hosts are bound to struggle.
With Thiago Silva set to return to the fold, Frank Lampard’s side should be in line for another clean sheet in the Champions League, while the likes of Timo Werner and Tammy Abraham could lay waste to the Ligue 1 side’s goal, considering that they have not kept a clean sheet in eight games. The Hard Tackle predicts another dominant win for the Blues.