Week 6 Match Preview: Olympique de Marseille v Stade Rennais

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Week 6 Match Preview: Olympique de Marseille v Stade Rennais Saturday 20 September

After last weeks excellent, disciplined performance to hold the champions to a 1-1 draw, Rennes head to the south coast to face another Ligue 1 giant in Marseille.

With PSG focusing on their midweek Champions League game (allegedly!!), this will probably be Rennes most difficult match to date.  After a poor-ish start to the season, Marcelo Bielsa seems to now have found the right recipe for les Phoceens.  Bielsa may be known for his intensive training methods but the desired effect seems to now be paying dividends.  Going forward Marseille are blessed with talent; Dimitri Payet is flourishing in the post Mathieu Valbuena era, scoring goal, making goals and being a general threat.  Florian Thauvin appears to be settling down, becoming less temperamental and letting his football do the talking.  Andre-Pierre Gignac is doing what he does best – scoring goals and tormenting defenders.  Only Zlatan Ibrahimovic has scored more than hims this season.  He is working hard for the team and is looking at the peak of his physical fitness.  Marseille can also call upon Andre Ayew, Abdelaziz Barrada and former les Rouges et Noirs man Romain Alessandrini.

At the start of the season, it was the defence which represented Marseille’ biggest weakness.  A 3-5-2 formation really struggled to gel as they lacked the personnel capable of fulfilling a back three with two wing-backs.  Bielsa reverted to a back four against Evian last week with Jeremy Morel and Brice Djadjedje as full backs and Nicolas Nkoulou and the re-integrated Rod Fanni, another ex-Rennais, pairing as centre backs.  This seemed much more settled with players in more familiar roles and is expected to be how they line up on Saturday afternoon.  The only exception being the possible return of Benjamin Mendy at left back.  In front of them is the rejuvenated Gianelli Imbula.  The former Guingamp player just lost his way at times this season but the introduction of Bielsa seems to have returned all confidence back to the talented youngster.  A protective presence in front of the defence, Imbula is equally comfortable with the ball at his feet as he is distributing passes around the pitch.  His boundless energy also allows him to be a danger further up the pitch as proven when he scored his first goal of the season last weekend against Evian.

doucoure marseille

If Rennes are to have any joy on Saturday afternoon, it is the full backs for Marseille that they need to target.  They are not the strongest and are very much confidence players.  If Pedro Henrique, Sanjin Prcic or Paul-Georges Ntep can get the better of them in the early moments of the game, their heads could drop and cracks in the defence could became available for exploitation.  Targeting Steve Mandanda, who has not had the best of starts to the season and has looked shaky at times, could be a useful tactic too.

It is also key for Rennes that Abdoulaye Doucure pushes forward to support Ola Toivonen where possible to avoid the Swede becoming an isolated figure.  There should be no changes at the back as the defensive six of Benoit Costil, Romain Danze, Edson Mexer, Sylvan Armand, Cheikh M’Bengue, Vincent Pajot and Gelson Fernandes should continue again.  Ever reliable this season, it is good to see such an organised unit working very well so far.

The corresponding fixture last season was a classic daylight robbery kind of match.  Rennes withstood a barrage of pressure from the home side before unleashing a lightning fast counter attack through Nelson Oliveira, Jonathan Pitroipa and Jean Makoun before Doucoure broke clear to calmly slot beyond Mandanda to give Rennes a priceless away victory late in the season.

Suffice to say though that since then, these are now two very different teams.  Marseille are a different animal under El Loco and Rennes, player wise, are almost unrecognisable from the team that came to the Veldorome last season.  Let’d not forget that spice has been added to this game through Mexer’ comments earlier in the week where he said “I don’t know much about this team…I’ve seen just a few games. I’ve heard of Mandanda, but otherwise I don’t know anyone……I don’t know him (Gignac), so it will be important to observe his movements on video.”  Might not go down to well with the Velodrome faithful!

Expect a good, close game.  Rennes will need to be at their absolute, resolute best to take something away from team currently lying in second place in Ligue 1.  It can be done so fingers crossed.

Allez les Rouges et Noirs!

Photos courtesy of http://www.staderennais.com and http://www.actusports.fr.

Week 5 Match Preview: Stade Rennais v Paris Saint Germain

Rennes PSG

Week 5 Match Preview: Stade Rennais v Paris Saint Germain 13 September 2014

Ligue 1 action returns this weekend after the international break and les Rouges et Noirs face their toughest test of the season so far as they welcome the current champions to the Stade de la Route de Lorient.

This fixture has not been a happy one for Rennes over the last few years, despite securing victories in Paris in the reverse fixture in the last two seasons.  PSG, and key man Zlatan Ibrahimovic, come to Brittany having hit form.  The men from the capital secured a 5-0 thrashing of Saint-Etienne in week four with Zlatan netting a hat-trick before he scored a double for Sweden in the international break.  Rennes can take some solice from the fact that PSG will probably be without David Luiz in addition to Gregory Van Der Wiel, Serge Aurier and captain Thiago Silva.  Whilst a makeshift defence could be a weakness Ola Toivonen and the Rennes attack may look to take advantage of, it is the PSG attack the home side will need to concentrate on most.  Along with Zlatan, PSG will be able to reap the benefits of Edinson Cavani, Lucas Moura and the vastly improved Javier Pastore.  It is these attacking threats Rennes will have to deal with to the best of their ability.

After an injury scare during the week, Sylvain Armand should be fit to start against his former club.  Kamil Grosicki remains a doubt ahead of the kick off on Saturday afternoon.  Rennes will have new signing Habib Habibou available and he should play a part in the game.  Philippe Montanier has been keen to emphasise the fact he can play out wide, so with Grosicki potentially unavailable, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Habibou start on the right wing.  With this in mind, my predicted starting XI for the match would be as follows:

Rennes v PSG

As we have said before, the key for Rennes is how well they can contain the threat of Ibrahimovic.  If Pajot and Fernandes can starve his service and Armand and Mexer keep tight to him then there is a chance Rennes can sneak a positive result.  Unfortunately this might prove too tough and so it pains me to say that I feel PSG will sneak a one goal win on Saturday.  Match report will follow shortly after the final whistle.  Please feel free to let me know your thoughts ahead of kick off.

Photo courtesy of http://www.rennes.maville.com.

 

Week 4 Match Preview: SM Caen v Stade Rennais

Week 4 Match Preview: SM Caen v Stade Rennais

It’s Normandy v Brittany as Stade Rennais face SM Caen in Week 4 of Ligue 1 although the match itself will be played at Le Mans ground, MMArena due to the World Equestrian Championships being played at Caen’ normal home ground, le Stade Michel d’Ornano.

This will be a tougher match for les Rouges et Noirs than perhaps originally expected.  The teams played each other in a pre-season friendly with Caen coming out 2-0 winners, although many in that Stade Rennais squad won’t be in action on Saturday night.  Caen then went on to make an excellent start to life back in Ligue 1.  They flew out of the blocks with a 0-3 win away to Evian Thonon Gaillard.  Only a dreadful refereeing error in awarding Lille a penalty and sending off Dennis Appiah, meant they went down to a 0-1 home (in Le Mans) loss.  Caen recovered from that to record their first ever win over Reims in a trip to the Champagne region.

A number of players have stood out for Caen so far this season including N’Golo Kante, top scorer Mathieu Duhamel and goalkeeper Remy Vercoutre.  There is plenty to link the two teams ahead of this match in addition to the neighbourly departments.  Longstanding Stade Rennais fan favourite, Julien Feret, will line up as Caen captain against his former teammates.  Feret has used his quiet yet authoritative demeanour to great effect and whilst it is sad not to see him wearing the “rouge et noir“, it is nice to see him playing regular Ligue 1 football.  Former La Piverdière product Damien Perquis will be on the Caen bench as reserve goalkeeper.

It is in the goalkeeper department we see the final major link between the two teams.  Caen born Benoit Costil joined the Normandy team when he was 8 and although he went on to only play 15 games for the senior side in Ligue 2, still has plenty of connections with his hometown team.  His mother and father regularly volunteer their services on match days and his brother, Eddy, helps train the goalkeepers at the club.

Stade Rennais welcome back Kamil Grosicki into their match day squad as he makes his return from injury.  New signing Fallou Diagne is also in the squad at the expense of Cedric Hountondji who has gone on loan to Chateauroux.  Christian Bruls, Axel Ngando and Benjamin Andre are still out injured.  Zana Allee, Adrien Hunou, Wesley Said and Gjoko Zajkov playing with the CFA2 team with Said, Allee and Hunou all rumoured to be sent on loan.  Jean Makoun II and Jean-Armal Kana-Biyik remain out of the squad as they seek moves away from the club.

With this in mind, there shouldn’t be too many changes from the Saint-Etienne game and so would expect Stade Rennais to line up as follows:

Rennes v Caen

This will be a tough game for les Rouges et Noirs and I predict a 1-1 draw.

It Is Alive! Our Return, Catch Up and Weekend Preview

Hello all, finally the blog is back! It’s been a while and I can only apologise for that!

Anyway after a busy summer, a whole new group of players have left and been brought in.  Rennes opened the league campaign in very disappointing fashion.  The 4-2-3-1 with captain Romain Danze really failed to ignite any positives in the 2-0 defeat to Lyon.  Pedro Henrique had a decent showing on debut and arguably should have won a penalty but it really was a game to forget for les Rouges et Noirs.

Come Week Two and it was all change.  With Danze back in familiar right back territory, Gelson Fernandes brought in for his first start and Paul-Georges Ntep left on the bench so his explosive talent could be introduced later in the game, Rennes came out all guns blazing against Evian Thonon Gaillard.  Taking the lead through Ola Toivonen, who was back to his hustling, bustling best, Rennes looked dangerous with every attack.  Defensive fragility was still clear to see, as demonstrated by the complete lack of marking for Daniel Wass’ equaliser.  Shortly before half time it turned into the Edson Mexer show.  The Mozambique centre back showing a knack for the spectacular finish following a Danze cross as he volleyed home from the edge of the area.  He doubled his tally shortly after, rising highest to head home a right sided corner.

The second half followed in similar fashion.  Toivonen got his second from another Danze cross, although there were suspicions of handball from the Swede.  The Ntep experiment worked to great effect as he was brought on (albeit earlier then anticipated following an injury to Kamil Grosicki).  The youngster demonstrated his pace and skill in the second half as he collected the ball 30 yards from the Evian goal, he ran at the heart of the defence and thanks to some generous defending, found himself in the area and able to colly slot home to open his account for the season.  The sixth goal followed shortly after as Toivonen and Abdoulaye Doucoure combined well to set up Ntep on his own in the penalty to sweep home into the top corner.  Wass was again allowed far too much time and space in the Rennes box as he got his second but it was merely a consolation.

Whilst the goalscorers took the bulk of the headlines, there were great performances from Danze, he’s a much better right back than midfielder, and Fernandes who slotted in as protector of the defence with ease.  He was a calm presence that mopped up numerous loose balls and allowed the other midfielders and attackers to push forward confidently.  A great home debut.

A 6-2 win was far beyond any fans dreams, and how nice it was to hear the home faithful in joyous cheering, something that was heard far to infrequently last season.

So this Sunday, Rennes face another tough away trip, this time to undefeated Saint-Etienne.  Les Verts have made a great start to the season and in former Rennes forward Mevlut Erding, have the leagues most in form striker with three goals in the opening two matches.  Rennes must pay close attention to not only him but dangerous creative players such as Romain Hamouma, Max-Alain Gradel and Kevin Monnet-Paquet who supply Erding with his chances.  If Rennes can keep those quiet then there is a chance against les Verts.  Rennes drew this fixture 0-0 last year and must look to use attack as the best form of defence.

With Grosicki nursing the injury picked up against Evian, Ntep could find himself back in the starting XI.  Other than than it would be a tough call for Philippe Montanier to make any further changes.

This, therefore would be my predicted starting XI for the game against Saint-Etienne:

ASSE formation

I’ll go with a draw as my match prediction.  I’d love to know your thoughts ahead of the game on Sunday.

It’s good to be back and we’ll have the full match review on Monday.

Allez les Rouges et Noirs!

Derby Day kicks off Crunch Month

Sunday’s Derby de la Bretagne could not come at a more crucial time for Rennes. Including the away trip to Nantes, les Rouges et Noirs, face a run of 4 games which come at the most crucial part of the season.

After the derby, Rennes pay host to fellow Brittany rivals Guingamp, a visit north to Valenciennes before Toulouse come to the Stade de la Route de Lorient. Arguably all 4 of these matches are “win-able” and with a slightly more positive vibe in the camp after the transfer window (the trip to Corsica aside), there is no reason why 12 points cannot be a realistic target for the next month.

However, and it is a big however, this is Rennes we are talking about and those of you who follow this wonderful enigma will be all too familiar with the feeling of unpredictability that goes with the club.

If we look back at the reverse fixtures from earlier in the season we’ll see that the consecutive losses to Nantes and Guingamp really were the catalyst for the beginning of the slide down the Ligue 1 table. Back in September and both these local rivals were enjoying an unforeseen successful return to top flight football. Now though reality has set in for them both with Guingamp now sitting a place below Rennes in 16th and Nantes only 3 points and places higher in 12th. With key Nantes man and club captain Filip Djordjevic suspended for the game and results going against them both, Rennes can look to these matches to try and regain some regional pride.

After this mini ligue de Bretagne comes a visit to Valenciennes. Back in mid October, a Foued Kadir double was not enough for Rennes as they threw away a 2 goal lead at home to the former employers of Kadir, Philippe Montanier and Michel Troin. With Valenciennes now in deep relegation trouble and 3 points from safety, they will be battling hard for all 3 points.  With an undefeated home record which stems back to the end of November, they will represent a challenge Rennes would be follish to underestimate.

Finally in this crucial run of matches, Rennes play host to Toulouse, themselves also something of an enigma. The 5-0 away victory for Rennes in October should not really be looked on as a clue as to how this match will materialise as Toulouse goalkeeper Ali Ahamada had a pretty horrific day at the office. So what will happen when 2 predictably unpredictable come up against each other – obviously who know?! One thing is for certain though and that is Toulouse at home really is a match Rennes should be looking to take all 3 points from.

We’ll be back after the derby with a full match review. For now though, keep fingers crossed and hope that Rennes can take back the bragging rights from les Canaris who have been tweeting a bit too loud in recent months!

Allez les Rouges et Noirs