Saint-Etienne and Rennes hope to bow out with pride

UEFA Europa League

Stade Rennais FC and AS Saint-Etienne will conclude their UEFA Europa League journeys against SS Lazio and VfL Wolfsburg respectively on Thursday, with both sides set to give youth a chance.

 Stade Rennais FC - SS Lazio 

Rennes got to the quarter-finals of this competition last season before bowing out to eventual finalists Arsenal FC, but the Bretons have been unable to carry their impressive French form into continental competition this season, and approach their final Group E clash with Lazio playing for little more than pride.

Paris Saint-Germain's closest challengers in Ligue 1 Conforama until Week 5, Rennes have rebounded from a recent domestic dip with last Saturday's 2-1 win over Angers SCO - their fourth consecutive win - lifting Julien Stéphan's men back up to fourth.

Top scorer M'Baye Niang scored a brace against Angers to bring his league tally up to seven, but he is one of a number of players likely to be rested on Thursday with Olympique Lyonnais looming in the league and Puel keen to blood some of the youngsters who won the French Under-17 title alongside Eduardo Camavinga last season.

"It was a difficult group," said Stéphan at his pre-match press conference. "I read after the draw that people though not many Lazio or Celtic players could get a game for Rennes but I think it was a huge mistake to write them off. One from a possible 15 points doesn't reflect well."

Veteran goalkeeper Romain Salin is likely to stand in for regular number one Edouard Mendy, while 18-year-old midfielder Lucas Da Cunha is among those pushing for a debut.

Lazio can still join Celtic in the next round if they win and CFR Cluj lose to the Scottish champions, but Stéphan has dismissed any suggestion that he is taking the game lightly.

"In a high-performance sport, every match is important," he said. "When you have the honour to play in a European match it's unimaginable not to play it to the best of your ability. Lyon will be important on Sunday but there will be fans in the stadium who will support as fantastically, as usual. I expect some players to make their case."

Possible teams 

Rennes: Salin; Boey, Nyamsi, Gnagnon, Doumbia; Tait, Attic, Lea Siliki, Da Cunha; Gboho, Siebatcheu

Lazio: Strakosha; Vavro, Bastos, Acerbi; Lazzari, Parolo, Leiva, Milinkovic-Savic, Jony; Immobile, Caicedo

 VfL Wolfsburg - AS Saint Etienne 

Saint-Etienne's trip to Wolfsburg is also something of a dead rubber, although victory over the team they held to a 1-1 draw in October would see them finish on a respectable seven points, just one behind their German hosts.

Sainté's continental pedigree is impressive, but their run to the European Cup final in 1976 has felt like a distant memory this season, and their Ligue 1 Conforama form has been similarly frustrating.

ASSE were in the bottom half of the table until Week 10 and came undone again against Stade de Reims last Sunday, losing 3-1 just four days after beating OGC Nice 4-1.

Romain Hamouma got what proved to be the consolation goal at the Stade Auguste-Delaune and is one of a number of players set to be rested, with PSG Les Verts' next league opponents on Sunday.

Spanish youngster Sergi Palencia joined Puel at the pre-match press conference, and is looking forward to seizing his chance to start ahead of fellow right-back Mathieu Debuchy. 

"It's always good to play in these types of matches in this kind of stadium," said the Barcelona CF youth product. "It's true that I've not played a lot lately but I'm working hard and trying to improve and it's up to me to show that I deserve more minutes."

Possible teams

Wolfsburg: Casteels; Knoche, Brooks, Tisserand; Mbabu, Schlager, Arnold, Roussillon; Brekalo, Victor; Weghorst

Saint-Etienne: Moulin; Palencia, Moukoudi, Kolodziejczak, Silva; Youssouf, M'Vila; Honorat, Aholou, Nordin; Beric


>> CLUB PROFILE: Stade Rennais FC

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