Rennes and Lille stumble into each other
By I. Holyman
Stade Rennais FC and LOSC Lille started the season with high hopes, but the troubled pair meet on Saturday hoping to navigate the stormy waters in which they currently sail.
Stade Rennais FC - LOSC Lille
Fans always follow the comings and goings of the summer closely, dreaming that their club has brought in the players that will mean they will enjoy a successful season. Rennes supporters, once again, no doubt felt that as they watched a wealth of talent arrive at Roazhon Park, notably Ismaïla Sarr, Wahbi Khazri and Faitout Maouassa.
That optimism is fast disappearing. Sarr is out until the festive period, Maouassa has yet to provide a goal or assist while Khazri too will have to sit out the Week 10 encounter with Les Dogues after a red card in the 2-0 defeat to En Avant Guingamp last time out.
The results have been more miserable still: just one win in their nine outings to date - a promising 3-1 win at Olympique de Marseille in Week 5 - that has been followed by one point, three defeats and just two goals.
WATCH: Rennes slip to derby defeat
"We got eaten alive by Guingamp in terms of commitment," admitted coach Christian Gourcuff after the Breton derby defeat to their neighbours. "They had a strategy of putting balls in behind our defence. We were constantly under pressure, unable to get our foot on the ball. We suffered a lot in the first half, and even though we had some counter-attack opportunities, it wasn't enough.
"We started the second half better, we dominated the game, kept the ball on the ground, which could have caused them problems, but then there was the opening goal and Khazri's red card. With ten men, it became very difficult."
They are unbeaten in seven years at home to Lille, and can draw further comfort from the fact that their opponents arrive in Brittany in just as much — if not more — turmoil.
The new owner, administrative set-up and coach transplanted into Lille over the summer appeared to have immediately taken. The experienced former Marseille, Chile and Argentina coach Marcelo Bielsa gutted the squad he inherited, allowing a number of club icons, such as Rio Mavuba, Vincent Enyeama and Marko Basa, to leave. They were replaced by a clutch of young talents, like Thiago Maia, Luiz Araujo and Ezequiel Ponce, and initially the gamble appeared to have worked brilliantly.
WATCH: Troyes peg back Lille
Nantes were beaten 3-0 in Week 1 leaving those fans who had hailed their new boss as the messiah smiling proudly. Since, however, Bielsa's reputation has taken a beating as often as his team with just three points coming in seven matches. They would have had a hugely welcome victory last time out only for their defence to crack three minutes into added time as ESTAC Troyes snatched a point in a 2-2 draw.
"It's difficult to explain this result. It's a one-off opportunity that earned them something from it," said Bielsa after seeing Edger Ié dismissed for conceding the penalty from which Adama Niané levelled late on.
"I often say the same things…I could say if it was deserved or not, who played better, who dominated the game, who had the most chances…but it won't change anything. There was that one-off incident and the match ended in a draw.
"Our start to the game was too tenative. We weren't on it, and the goal we conceded showed that. We can't be happy with a start to the game like that…Eight games without a win is much too long a series."
Rennes: Koubek; Traoré, Gnagnon, Bensebaini, Baal; Bourigeaud, Prcic, André (c), Figueiredo; Maouassa, Mubele
Lille: Maignan; Bissouma, Ié, Alonso, Ballo-Touré; Mendes, Thiago Maia; El Ghazi, Araújo, Benzia (c); Pépé