Breton top dogs goal for Rennes
By I. Holyman
Stade Rennais FC are aiming to complete a clean sweep of Breton derbies this season as they face En Avant Guingamp on Sunday.
Stade Rennais FC - En Avant Guingamp (kick-off 17:00CET)
Philippe Montanier's side defeated neighbours FC Lorient last weekend to do the double over Sylvain Ripoll's men, and they have already beaten EAG this season. A further victory this weekend would not only assure them of 'top dog' status in the region, but also all but confirm their top-flight survival.
"The fact we won the derby at Lorient, away from home, gives us a bit of a boost. Of the last five matches, we have won three, drawn one and lost one," said Montanier. "That's a rhythm we'd like to maintain until the end of the season. Against Nantes and Lorient, we played well.
"We have to keep that going, because what was true yesterday is not necessarily true tomorrow. Each time, we have to start from scratch. We still have an eye on what is behind us. It's not because we have 42 points that we're going to slacken off. It's only an extra step to go as high as possible."
Rennes would surely have been eyeing something more than merely securing their Ligue 1 billing had they been able to find that most elusive of footballing commodities: consistency. Though their recent form has been good, they had been winless in ten league matches prior to the Week 27 victory at RC Lens.
Montanier: 'Ups and downs'
Their Week 32 opponents have endured more of a rollercoaster still. Bottom of the table and seemingly doomed to relegation 15 games into the campaign, Jocelyn Gourvennec's men turned things round with an impressive run before tailing off in recent weeks.
"Every team has ups and downs in a season. I'm always extremely cautious against any team. We mustn't count on some hypothetical weakness of our opponents," said Montanier, who faces an EAG team that has won just twice in its last eight competitive fixtures. "They are on a bad run, but they will come good some day. We don't want that to be at the Stade de la Route de Lorient."
Though they are unbeaten in their last four league outings on their own turf, Rennes' patchy home form must give Guingamp cause for optimism, especially as they lie only three points behind their weekend hosts. They won in Rennes last season, but the end of their Coupe de France defence with a midweek semi-final defeat at AJ Auxerre will have curtailed their ambitions of repeating that success.
"It's cruel. We had put a lot into preparing this game. We wanted to reach a second successive final. Unfortunately, we came up against a formidable team. I take my hat off to them," said Younousse Sankharé, who was also in the Guingamp line-up beaten 3-1 at home by Olympique Lyonnais last weekend.
"We lacked a clinical streak. We weren't able to score, to create chances. They had one chance and put it away. That's top level football. Now, we have to roll our sleeves up and ensure our survival as soon as possible."