Jeremy Doku, Rennes

Rennes-Lille preview: Doku determined to bring down Lille

Publish on 22/01/2021 at 18:59 - I. HOLYMAN


Jérémy Doku says Rennes must go into Sunday's encounter with fellow title challengers Lille looking to take all three points and keep their hopes of playing European football next season on the boil.

Rennes come into Round 21 in fifth place, four points off the top three and six points adrift of second-placed Lille. The Bretons pipped the northerners to the final place on the 2019/20 podium, clinching a UEFA Champions League group stage debut, and Doku knows victory at Roazhon Park would give ambitions of emulating that feat a major shot in the arm ahead of next weekend's trip to Marseille.


"They're two big games in which we'll have to take points. If we want to stay near the top of the table, we have to take points off our rivals for those places. It's ambitious, but we can't settle for playing for a point if we want to play in Europe next season. We have already proven that we have the qualities to be able to express ourselves against big teams," said the Belgium international winger, whose sizzling form has been a key factor in fuelling Rennes' seven-match unbeaten run.


WATCH: See what happened when Rennes and Lille met earlier this season




"The most important thing is that the team is going well. I feel good, physically and mentally. I'm not worried. I knew a few weeks ago that we would turn things round. We have the qualities for that. There are games we deserved to win. Right now, the dynamic is good for us. Let's hope we can keep that going."


Rennes coach Julien Stéphan will be without forwards Mbaye Niang and Serhou Guirassy while Flavien Tait is also sidelined. Benjamin Bourigeaud is suspended, and captain Damien Da Silva is a doubt as Rennes look for a first win over Lille in four top-flight matches.


"They're joint leaders after 20 games. It's pretty impressive to still be in touch with PSG having also played in Europe," said Stéphan of Lille, who have a Round of 32 UEFA Europa League tie with Ajax looming next month. "There's only six points between the teams, but they're playing for the title, not us! It won't be a turning point, there's still a lot of points to be had," said Stéphan, who also has to decide whether the fit-again Alfred Gomis returns in goal in place of Romain Salin.


"Lille are a solid team, strong in their pressing and transitions. They're able to play well in the final third, but we have our own arguments. We have to go into it without any complexes, just as we did when we played Lyon."


WATCH: Jonathan David snatches a late winner against Reims




Rennes took a 2-0 lead in that game against OL before being pegged back to a 2-2 draw, and Lille boss Christophe Galtier will be fully aware of just how perillous the trip to Brittany could be to his side who have not won at Roazhon Park in 10 visits.


Renato Sanches is fit again and could feature, particularly with fellow Portuguese midfielder Xeka suspended. Burak Yilmaz and Jérémy Pied miss out through injury, but Zeki Celik, who has missed the last three league games with a calf injury, is available for selection.


"We're going to play a team that's played in the Champions League. An opponent that, on the face of it, is superior to us given where they finished in the league last season," explained the Lille boss. "Rennes are on a good run. They've got a second wind after a difficult period when they were playing a lot of games.


"They're a team that likes to play football with a lot of options going forward and at set-pieces, even if Bourigeaud is suspended. Rennes have other good takers, notably Clément Grenier."

Probable teams

Rennes: Salin - Truffert, Aguerd, Nyamsi (or Da Silva), Traoré - Camavinga, Grenier, Nzonzi - Doku, Terrier, Del Castillo.


Lille: Maignan - Celik, Fonte, Botman, Bradaric - Ikone, André, Soumare, Bamba - Yazici, David.


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