Pressure is building on Julien Stéphan and the Stade Rennais FC coach is in urgent need of a win as his struggling side welcome Toulouse FC to Brittany on Sunday.
Stade Rennais FC - Toulouse FC
Rennes are desperate to get back on track after their latest defeat, 1-0 at home to Romanian champions CFR Cluj in the UEFA Europa League on Thursday. On a chaotic night at Roazhon Park, the Bretons had returning goalkeeper Edouard Mendy sent off inside five minutes, conceded the only goal of the game from the free-kick that followed, and then saw M’Baye Niang miss a penalty before half-time. Eduardo Camavinga was then sent off just after the break, leaving Rennes to finish the match with nine men. They could not find an equaliser and have just one point from three European outings this season, two of which have been at home, form that leaves them bottom of Group E.
"It was a surreal match, but the top level is brutal," was how Stéphan summed that game up, and he hopes that the way his team battled on with nine men in the second half can inspire a return to form. "I am proud of the players. It was an incredible scenario, but this can be a founding moment for the whole team. I don't know if we've ever seen 28,000 people here all on their feet applauding the team (after a defeat)."
Stéphan needed to take the positives from that game but Rennes have now suffered four straight defeats and have gone 10 matches without a win in all competitions. Suddenly, their start to the season, which saw them win their opening three Ligue 1 Conforama matches, seems like a very long time ago, not to mention April's historic Coupe de France triumph.
Highlights: Rennes beaten at death in Monaco
"We showed that we can be a great team and it is by displaying these values that we will get out of this situation," insisted midfielder Benjamin Bourigeaud in the wake of Thursday's game, which followed an agonising, last-gasp 3-2 defeat away to AS Monaco last weekend.
Rennes have taken just three points from a possible 21 in the league since the beginning of September and ended last weekend in 12th place in the table. They are struggling to score goals - as Niang's squandered penalty against Cluj confirmed - and they are not being helped by injuries either.
Mendy may have returned from a spell on the sidelines against Cluj, but experienced back-up goalkeeper Romain Salin is currently out with a calf problem - that is why Pépé Bonet, aged just 16 like Camavinga, came on against Cluj. Summer signings Jonas Martin and Flavien Tait are on the sidelines too, while others are out of form, including Clément Grenier, who was left out of Thursday's game entirely.
Toulouse feel new manager bounce
Stéphan may insist he does not fear for his future - he claimed he was "full of fight and determination" this week - but there is a danger he will become the fourth coaching casualty of the campaign in Ligue 1 unless he succeeds in turning things around quickly. And this weekend he must deal with a Toulouse side feeling the effect of having a new man at the helm.
Antoine Kombouaré has replaced the sacked Alain Casanova in the dugout in the Pink City and his first game at the helm ended in a 2-1 win over LOSC last Saturday, with Yaya Sanogo netting the opener and Max-Alain Gradel scoring one penalty before missing another. That was a first win in six for TFC and means they are only behind Rennes on goal difference just now.
Highlights: Toulouse beat Lille on Kombouaré debut
Not that it was all rosy for Kombouaré on his debut: He saw both Wesley Saïd and Bafodé Diakité go off injured in that game and both are missing here.
The former Paris Saint-Germain, EA Guingamp and Dijon FCO coach also needs to engineer a big improvement in his new team's away form. They have not won on their travels in 14 attempts in all competitions since a 1-0 victory at Nîmes Olympique in January. It is also five years since Toulouse claimed a league victory in Rennes.
Rennes: Mendy; Traoré, Gnagnon, Da Silva, Maouassa; Raphinha, Bourigeaud, Camavinga, Niang; Del Castillo, Hunou
Toulouse: Reynet; Moreira, Amian, Isimat-Mirin, Sylla; Dossevi, Sangaré, Vainqueur, Gradel; Sanogo, Koulouris