Chelsea are still unbeaten heading into gameweek three of the Champions League group stage. A 0-0 draw with Sevilla was followed by a 4-0 win over Krasnodar, and next up on the schedule are French side Rennes.
European football isn’t a regular thing at Roazhon Park. This season is Rennes’ first appearance in the Champions League, but they’ve only been back in the international picture since 2018, when they made it to the Europa League for the first time in six years.
They’re a relatively unknown quantity, but one that still has plenty of potential to cause Chelsea real problems.
Scouts will have done their research on Rennes, but here’s everything fans need to know about the Ligue 1 side.
Chelsea‘s draw for the group stage looked pretty kind on paper, but every team could be a banana skin for the Blues, and Rennes are no different.
After finishing tenth in the 2018/19 Ligue 1 season, Rennes joined France’s elite in the following season. They made it up to third in the table before 2019/20 was curtailed, and they sit in the same position heading into Wednesday’s meeting with Chelsea. Their success is new, but it’s well-deserved.
Rennes have lost just one of their opening nine games of the season. For comparison, PSG have lost twice, so Chelsea cannot afford to underestimate them.
Changes From Last Season
After an impressive 2019/20 season, Rennes faced plenty of interest in some of their top stars during the summer.
A certain goalkeeper by the name of Édouard Mendy was lured over to Chelsea, with Alfred Gomis coming in as his replacement, while winger Raphinha also headed to England to join Leeds United.
Rennes reinvested that money well, bringing in the likes of Belgian wonderkid Jérémy Doku, forward Serhou Guirassy and centre back Daniele Rugani, the latter of whom has joined on loan from Juventus.
The man to look out for is Guirassy. The 24-year-old striker netted nine goals last season for Amiens but already has five this time around, using his history as a tricky winger to find ways past defenders with regularity.
Guirassy is a real handful for defenders as he likes to use his physicality to his advantage. He holds the ball up well and loves to bring in his fellow forwards in a similar fashion to Roberto Firmino at Liverpool.
In midfield, it’s Benjamin Bourigeaud who provides most of the creativity. Young Eduardo Camavinga is already well-known to fans around the world, although he is expected to miss Wednesday’s game through injury.
How’s it Going This Season?
As seems to be the case with Rennes, they’re doing great domestically but coming unstuck on the European stage.
Ligue 1’s highest-scoring team not named PSG have picked up impressive results against Lille, Monaco, Saint-Étienne and Montpellier, and they look to be one of the few sides who could even contemplate challenging PSG for the title.
However, over in Europe, a 1-1 draw with Krasnodar was followed by a 1-0 loss to Sevilla, so they find themselves playing catch-up already. Fortunately for Rennes, a victory over Chelsea would have them right back in the race for qualification.
Julien Stéphan is a relatively young manager. The 40-year-old spent several years with Rennes’ reserves before joining the senior setup in 2018, so this is his first official management job.
Stéphan, who is the son of Didier Deschamps’ assistant in the France national team, prefers to send his side out in a 4-3-3 formation but has shown a willingness to switch to a 4-1-4-1 at times. A known admirer of Pep Guardiola and Maurizio Sarri, the boss instructs his side to play lots of short passes in an attempt to dominate possession, and to their credit, it usually works.
Crosses into the box are a big part of Rennes’ game plan, so expect Chelsea’s centre backs to be pretty busy.
Record in Europe
As we’ve previously alluded to, Rennes aren’t exactly regulars at this level. This is their first appearance in the Champions League and they don’t have a rich history of European football at any level.
They were eliminated in the group stage of the Europa League last season and crashed out at the round of 16 in 2018/19, throwing away a 3-1 win over Arsenal in the process.
That was the first time that Rennes have actually made it out of the group stage of any international competition since 2001, although a lot has changed since then and so fans should probably avoid making any assumptions based on that.