Wednesday-night football is back, but not accompanied by a dramatic hymn. Instead, the race for the podium resumes as Lyon welcomes Rennes for the 16th Ligue 1 matchday.
This time, there won’t be just 11 Lyonnais on the pitch at the Groupama Stadium. A Rennes side in turmoil visits from the North with a slew of ex-Lyon players like White Walkers trying to reclaim their old home.
Wednesday, December 5th, 2018
Parc OL, Lyon
1 PM EST (19:00 CET, 18:00 UST)
With the way that Lyon’s ex-players haunt the Rhône club, you would think that Halloween is every weekend. If you think that Loïc Rémy ending his goal drought against Lyon was terrible, just wait until Romain Del Castillo, Mehdi Zeffane, Hatem Ben Arfa and Clément Grenier come to town.
It will be a Rennes team in shambles that travels to Lyon for the midweek Ligue 1 fixture. With 25 goals conceded in 15 matchdays, the Northern club has the third-worst defense in Ligue 1 and is clearly missing Joris Gnagnon. Rennes is currently winless in 3 matches, with the latest one being the 4-1 thumping at home against Strasbourg just last weekend.
The sixth defeat of the season was one too many for Rennes, and Sabri Lamouchi paid the price for it. On Monday, the club announced that he would be departing. Later, reports indicated that part of his staff would accompany him on the way out.
In retrospect, Rennes could live to regret the choice not to let Lamouchi handle the game against Lyon, who can’t get enough of lending a helping hand to struggling teams. Instead, it will be Julien Stéphan who will take over. Stéphan made the switch from Rennes’ reserve team to the big boys’ table, and will look to Lyon for his first points.
Rennes will travel to Lyon with some key players missing. Rafik Guitane, Gerzino Nyamsi, Ludovic Baal, Romain Danzé, Diafra Sakho and Jérémy Gélin have all been ruled out of the game. Conversely, Ben Arfa has recovered from illness and will travel to Lyon to see what he is missing out on. That is not the end of danger for Lyon.
Clément Grenier signed for Rennes from Lyon last Summer. Since then, he has blossomed in ways that are not financial. This season, Grenier has already delivered 4 assists and scored 2 goals in Ligue 1. However, perhaps there is no greater threat to Lyon than Ismaïla Sarr.
The polyvalent attacker has often debuted on the wing for Rennes, and has been the go-to guy when the Bretons needed goals. With 5 goals and 2 assists this season in Ligue 1, Sarr leads Rennes’ goalscoring charts. Following Nicolas Pépé’s romp on the wing last weekend at Lille, Lyon will do well to tighten at the back.
Stéphan will look to Grenier and Sarr to make the difference, but it will be no easy task. On top of the tardiness of his appointment, reports indicate that some players participated in booze-filled parties, later leading to discord in the team. It is in these shadows that Rennes travel to Lyon.
Rennes’ Group: Diallo, Koubek – Zeffane, Da Silva, Mexer, Bensebaini, Traoré – Johansson, Grenier, Lea-Siliki, Bourigeaud, André, Hunou, Poha, Janvier – Sarr, Siebatcheu, Niang, Ben Arfa, Del Castillo
Lyon Team News
Lyon too will be in high spirits on Wednesday, though not at all like Rennes’. Often criticized for their apathy, Les Gones seem to have had a change of heart in the last two fixtures against Manchester City and Lille. For the first time this season, Lyon put on disciplined and altruistic displays for longer than a single half.
A desperate 2-2 draw away at Lille last weekend did more than just extend Lyon’s unbeaten streak, which now stretches to 9 matches in all competitions. The single point that they salvaged ensured Lyon remains on the podium.
In this matchday, Lille have already defeated Montpellier, leaving the road wide open for second place. Meanwhile, Marseille and Saint-Étienne navigate tricky waters of their own. 3 points against a struggling Rennes side would certainly ease the race for Champions League football next season, even this early in the season.
Lyon’s injury list adds one member, though it remains a short one. Amine Gouiri remains unavailable due to an ACL injury. Léo Dubois has not recovered enough to be in the group for the midweek tie and Maxwel Cornet joins the infirmary after picking up an injury last weekend. But that is fine – he only scores against Manchester City anyway.
Although he is present in the group, Marcelo‘s place in the starting line-up against Rennes is doubtful after aggravating a knock against Lille. Rafael serves his second of three suspended matches.
Lyon’s best news this week is undoubtedly the Toulouse fixture. The match was initially programmed for next weekend, but widespread protests in France have forced its postponement. It’s a solution that suits Lyon because the extra days of rest ahead of Shakhtar Donetsk will permit Bruno Genesio to come out with guns blazing.
Lyon’s Group: Lopes, Gorgelin – Tete, Morel, Denayer, Solet, Marcelo, Mendy, Marçal – Aouar, Ndombele, Diop, Ndiaye, Tousart – Fekir, Depay, Dembélé, Terrier, Traoré.
Death, taxes and the 3-man defense. That is the way of life in Europe right now, and Genesio has embraced the maxim.
This time, his rendition is successful, which means that we will keep seeing the 3-5-2 and 3-4-1-2 until they start failing. However, some changes can be expected to the line-up. Genesio is unlikely to risk further harm to Marcelo ahead of next week’s Champions League match. So out with the old… and in with the old.
In Marcelo’s absence, Jérémy Morel will likely reclaim his spot in the starting eleven, alongside Jason Denayer and Fernando Marçal. In the absence of Dubois, it is likely that both Ferland Mendy and Kenny Tete will retain their place.
Rennes do not pack the same firepower as either Manchester City and, to a lesser extent, Lille. Therefore Genesio will likely sacrifice a midfielder for a more offensive configuration once again. The 3-4-1-2 that worked so well against the previous two opponents will probably be employed to overload Rennes’ fragile defense.
Tanguy Ndombele and Houssem Aouar will likely retain their place. In front of them, Lyon captain Nabil Fekir will likely start the match this time round. If that’s the case, then he could be starting behind Moussa Dembélé and Memphis Depay.
Denayer – Marcelo – Morel
Tete – Ndombele – Aouar – Mendy
Memphis – Dembélé
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Lyon 2 – 0 Rennes. What’s worse than having an incompetent coach? Having a makeshift one. Lamouchi might not have been doing a brilliant job, but Stéphan has his work cut out. Lyon should give us some scares, but deliver nonetheless.
Cover image: Ouest-France