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Rennes, Saint-Etienne seek solace from Euro woe

Publish on 29/11/2019 at 07h30

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Stade Rennais FC and AS Saint-Etienne have already been eliminated from Europe without winning a game, so both clubs will be seeking domestic solace when they clash at Roazhon Park on Sunday.

Stade Rennais FC  -  AS Saint-Etienne

Sant-Etienne's hopes of progressing to the last 32 of the UEFA Europa League were ended in a disappointing 0-0 draw at home to Belgian club Gent on Thursday evening, a result that left Les Verts third in Group I with four points from five matches. It was their fourth consecutive draw in the competition, but they have not managed a single victory and can no longer qualify before going to VfL Wolfsburg on the final matchday.

"We gave our all last season to get into the Europa League so to go out like that, it hurts," said Yann M’Vila after Thursday's match, while his team-mate, Timothée Kolodziejczak, called on Saint-Etienne to put the setback behind them "in order to return to Europe next season".

The former European Cup runners-up had made the knockout stage of the Europa League in each of their last two participations, going out in the last 32 in 2015-16 and 2016-17, and there were high hopes that they would at least match those performances this time around having only just fallen short of a top-three finish last season.

Instead, they are left to focus on domestic matters, but there is a silver lining. Despite all the upheaval this season, with a managerial change and a plethora of injuries, Sainté are unbeaten in 11 games in all competitions now, with five wins and six draws. Claude Puel has not lost any of his nine games since taking charge, including taking 14 points from a possible 18 to climb from 19th to fifth in the Ligue 1 Conforama table coming into this weekend, just two points off the top three.

"Everything that we are initiating, and are going to initiate, is not in relation to our results but linked to having a certain cohesion in the squad and when it comes to financial matters. Whatever happens on the field, we have to stick to our guiding principles," said Puel, indulging somewhat in management speak.

Saint-Etienne were without as many as 10 injured players for the game against Gent, as goalkeeper Stéphane Ruffier kept another clean sheet, after doing likewise in last weekend's stalemate at home to Montpellier Hérault SC in which he made his 304th top-flight appearance, overtaking the legendary Ivan Curkovic's club record for a goalkeeper.

Rennes in a rut

Rennes already knew they would be going no further in the Europa League this season before Thursday's 3-1 defeat at the hands of Celtic in Glasgow, their fourth successive loss in the competition leaving the Brittany side bottom of Group E with just a single point. What a contrast to last season's run to the last 16.

"We had a young team and we came up against a stronger side than us. We can have no complaints about the result. We have deficiencies, we have limits. That is clear and we will have to make up for them," admitted Rennes coach Julien Stéphan.

While their weekend opponents are on a long unbeaten run, the result in Glasgow means Rennes have suffered seven defeats in nine games in all competitions. They have won just twice in 15 outings since starting the league campaign with nine points from a possible nine, and yet a win against Saint-Etienne will take them to within a point of Puel's men.

Stéphan, who said he was "embarrassed" with his team's display in losing 2-1 at Dijon FCO last weekend, could bring back M’Baye Niang and Hamari Traoré after resting them for the game in Scotland. Clément Grenier also missed the Celtic clash because of a virus.

Probable teams

Rennes: Mendy; Traoré, Da Silva, Gnagnon, Morel; Raphinha, Bourigeaudn Camavinga, Del Castillo; Hunou, Niang

Saint-Etienne: Ruffier; Moukoudi, Perrin, Kolodziejczak; Palencia, M'vila, Youssouf, Trauco; Boudebouz; Nordin, Bouanga