After drawing 3-3 with Real Betis in Brittany last week - and losing 2-0 to Reims at the weekend - Stade Rennais FC face a huge challenge in the return leg of their UEFA Europa League last 32 clash on Thursday.
Thursday, 21 February 2019
UEFA Europa League, round of 32 second leg
Estadio Benito Villamarin, Seville
Real Betis Balompié - Stade Rennais FC
Since 1978, only four teams have managed to qualify in European competition after conceding a 3-3 home draw in the first leg, confirming for Rennes boss Julien Stephen that Thursday night's trip to Seville poses a serious challenge.
Mountain to climb
Rennes quickly got out in front in the club's first-ever European knock-out round appearance at Roazhon Park last week, but Real Betis' possession play (75%) bore fruit in a dominant second-half performance. The 3-3 draw took its toll on the Brittany side, who lacked vigour in their 2-0 loss to Reims at the weekend, but livewire forward M'Baye Niang isn't fazed by the prospect of taking on the Spaniards.
Niang: 'Far from unplayable'
"They seem very strong because they have the ball the whole time. Teams like PSG dominate possession ad they end up beating you 4-0. Betis, on the other hand, didn't have that many clear-cut chances against us," explained the former SM Caen and AC Milan striker, currently on loan from Torino, who has four goals and two assists in the current league campaign. "Sure, they like to move the ball around a lot, but they aren't a side who impress me that much, and I think they're far from unplayable. They will be playing at home, so they could well push forward, and it will be up to its to make the most of the space they leave open."
Rennes' pace up front will surely be a factor. Niang's mercurial qualities are backed up by the likes of Ismaila Sarr - fit again after missing the Reims defeat with a knock - Adrien Hunou and Kévin Bourigeaud, with Lyon youth academy products Clément Grenier and Hatem Ben Arfa there to pull the strings. The danger posed has not escaped Betis boss Quique Setién.
Setién: 'Their transitions can really hurt us'
"Rennes are an excellent team with a lot of pace up front and attacking players with a lot of potential. They caused us problems," he intoned, despite having verged on triumphalism following the first-leg draw. "They have quality and pace and their transitions can really hurt us, as they did in the first leg. We will have to find a better way of dealing with that."
Real Betis Balompié: Robles; Feddal, Bartra, Sidnei; W. Carvalho; Joaquin (c), Canales, Lo Celso, Guardado; Lainez, MoronStade Rennais FC: Koubek; H. Traoré, Da Silva (c), Mexer, Zeffane; I. Sarr, Bourigeaud, Grenier, M. Niang; Ben Arfa, Hunou