After a difficult weekend in their respective domestic leagues, Rennes and Tottenham kickstart their UEFA Europa Conference League campaigns.
Rennes have displayed a form in Ligue 1 that is contrasting to their ambitions as a football club. A solitary win in five games domestically sees them occupy the 11th spot on the table, which is much lower than they want to achieve this season. They need a morale-boosting victory, and a clash with Tottenham may have come at the right time.
A sixth-placed finish last season in Ligue 1 was only enough to seal a qualification berth for the Conference league. They swept aside Rosenberg with an aggregate score of 5-1 over two legs, although their consecutive defeats in the league to Angers and Reims is a worrying sign for Bruno Genesio.
Those results have brought the morale down on a season where the French side harboured ambitions to qualify for the Champions League or the Europa League. If their displays continue this way, winning the Conference League will be the only option to be eligible for one of the higher tiers of European football.
Their visitors, Tottenham, have their domestic problems to deal with. Spurs had managed three consecutive victories to collect nine points from their first three games, although they looked far from their best. And, their shot-shy style was punished by Crystal Palace over the weekend in the Premier League.
Against Palace, Nuno Espirito Santo’s men only managed a paltry 2-shots during the whole game, which raised questions over their style. Each of their three narrow victories saw Spurs score only one goal in each game and are in desperate need of creative injection to succeed this season.
Tottenham made it to the Europa Conference League group stages by beating Pacos De Ferreira at home with a 3-0 scoreline after losing the first leg to the Portuguese side. After the Rennes clash, they face London rivals Chelsea and Arsenal with a cup tie against Wolves sandwiched in between. After their recent dip in, a positive result against Rennes would boost the Lilywhites’ morale, heading into a crucial period of their season.
Team News & Tactics
Genesio has used the 4-3-3 and 4-2-3-1 systems in recent defeats to Angers and Reims, respectively, and the manager seems to prefer the former formation. Hence he might stick with a more attacking formation, as Spurs have recently displayed a very defensive strategy to their game.
Regarding absentees, attacker Martin Terrier is out of the game after hobbling off against Reims over the weekend with a suspected thigh problem. Exciting Belgian star Jeremy Doku also sits out with a hamstring problem. Kamaldeen Sulemana should be the player to replace Terrier on the left side of the attack.
Meanwhile, Genesio will also have Loic Bade available again after missing the weekend’s clash due to a domestic suspension. The centre-back should displace Warmed Omari, who played against Reims in his place.
Alfred Gomis is under quarantine, Birger Meling has an abductor problem, and Lovro Majer could also miss the game with a hip issue. These players did not make the squad against Reims, and it would be a big boost if they are available against Spurs, which is highly unlikely.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Salin; Traore, Aguerd, Bade, Truffert; Santamaria, Bourigeaud, Tait; Laborde, Guirassy, Sulemana
Nuno Espirito Santo will again be without star forward Heung-min Son, who is expected to return later this week, and the manager will be hopeful of having him for the Chelsea game. Davinson Sanchez, Cristian Romero, and Giovani Lo Celso are under quarantine after travelling to South America during the international break.
Ryan Sessegnon and Steven Bergwijn are also out of the clash with injuries, as is Eric Dier, who limped off against Palace at the weekend. Japhet Tanganga, who received a red card in the same game, will be available for this European encounter.
Nuno could field a much-changed lineup as he aims to rest much of his first-team starters ahead of the Chelsea game at the weekend. It could see the likes of Harry Kane, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Dele Alli not feature from the start, instead of opening the door for some fringe players to stake their claim.
Bryan Gil, Jack Clarke, Matt Doherty and Joe Rodon could feature in the lineup. Nuno could also give estranged midfielder Tanguy Ndombele his first start against Rennes to repair the relationship with the Frenchman.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Gollini; Doherty, Rodon, Tanganga, Davies; Skipp, Ndombele, Winks; Clarke, Lucas, Gil
- Rennes and Tottenham have never played a competitive game against each other before.
- Rennes have played four games against London sides (Arsenal, Chelsea), winning once and losing thrice.
- Rennes have failed to keep a clean sheet in their last four games while failing to score in their previous two matches.
- Five of Rennes’ last six games have produced 2.5 goals.
- Tottenham recorded 1-0 wins in each of their first three Premier League games of the season.
Player to Watch
The Brazilian has been a decent performer for Spurs throughout the last few seasons, although never really breaking out of his stride. However, the Conference League is one tournament Spurs can aspire to win rather easily come to the end of the season, and Lucas Moura could play a crucial role in leading the side.
Against Rennes, he will be the senior attacker in front, especially with the likes of Alli and Kane likely to be given a breather. The Brazilian’s numbers have dipped from last season, and these games represent a decent chance to get on the scoresheet and polish those boots a bit for tough challenges in the Premier League.
Rennes 1-1 Tottenham
It will be a rather cagey clash in France when both these teams meet. Both have a dreadful record this season when it comes to attacking, as they emphasise on sitting deep and defending. It’s not to say Spurs will adapt to a defensive strategy against the French opponents, but without their premier attackers, they might struggle.
Meanwhile, Rennes have struggled to create chances or score in their last two games, a trend that could continue while facing a much more challenging defensive unit in Tottenham. Expect both sides to score and the game to end in a cagey draw.