French side Rennes host Chelsea for a Champions League group stage match in one of the early kick-offs on Tuesday afternoon.
Rennes’ bright start to the season has long since fizzled out and they go into their fourth ever Champions League game still in search of a maiden victory, with just a single point – at home to Krasnodar – to their name this term.
Chelsea top the group ahead of last season’s Europa League champions Sevilla on goal difference having only dropped points against those Spanish opponents. Frank Lampard’s team eased their way to a 3-0 win when these sides met three weeks earlier and are yet to concede a single goal in the competition this season.
When Is Kick Off? Tuesday 24 November
What Time Is Kick Off? 17:55 (GMT)
Where Is it Played? Roazhon Park
TV Channel/Live Stream? BT Sport 1 (UK), fuboTV (US)
Referee? Björn Kuipers
Rennes will be without full-back Dalbert, who is suspended after receiving a harsh red card during the reverse fixture. Midfielder Jonas Martin and Juventus loanee Daniele Rugani are both doubts as they are just returning from injury, while left-back Faitout Maouassa is back in training after ankle surgery.
Despite the heavy workload of this congested season, Chelsea’s squad is largely unscathed going into Tuesday’s match. Christian Pulisic is likely to be sidelined for another two weeks or so as he recovers from a recurring hamstring injury.
However, Kai Havertz – having missed Chelsea’s last three games following a positive COVID-19 test should be available with Thiago Silva also set to return after being rested on the weekend.
Rennes: Gomis; Traore, Da Silva, Aguerd, Truffert; Nzonzi; Doku, Camavinga, Bourigeaud, Gboho; Guirassy.
Chelsea: Mendy; James, Zouma, Silva, Chilwell; Kovacic, Jorginho, Havertz; Ziyech, Abraham, Werner.
Five games into the season, Rennes were sitting atop the Ligue 1 table with four consecutive wins under their belt. However, things have only gone downhill since. Julien Stephan’s side have won just one of the subsequent nine matches, losing five of the past six.
Chelsea’s form has been a near mirror image. While the club’s vast array of summer signings understandably needed time to bed in, Chelsea endured one or two wobbles – notably recording two 3-3 draws in the space of three Premier League matches either side of the October international break.
Yet, over the last two months Chelsea’s once haplessly porous backline has become remarkably parsimonious – a run which has coincided with the arrival of goalkeeper Edouard Mendy, incidentally from Rennes. The replacement for the infamous Kepa Arrizabalaga has conceded just two goals in his first nine appearances for Chelsea, keeping seven clean sheets.
Here’s how each side has fared in their last five outings.
Rennes 0-1 Bordeaux (20/11)
Paris Saint-Germain 3-0 Rennes (7/11)
Chelsea 3-0 Rennes (4/11)
Rennes 2-1 Stade Brest (31/10)
Sevilla 1-0 Rennes (28/10)
Newcastle United 0-2 Chelsea (21/11)
Chelsea 4-1 Sheffield United (7/11)
Chelsea 3-0 Rennes (4/11)
Burnley 0-3 Chelsea (31/10)
Krasnodar 0-4 Chelsea (28/10)
Rennes can perhaps feel slightly hard done by to have lost so many of their recent fixtures despite enjoying their fair share of chances, but their coach Stephan has rarely been more infuriated than after Dalbert received a second yellow card for a handball in their last meeting with Chelsea.
Stephan claimed that the decision ‘kills the game’, questioned whether there had been a rule change he wasn’t aware off, stopping short of ‘conspiracy-theory thinking’.
With Lampard seemingly settled on a 4-3-3 system – with a deeper midfielder flanked by two number eights – Chelsea’s attacking riches have begun to menacingly click into gear. If the Blues continue their electric form on Tuesday night, they will scarcely have to rely on controversial decisions to earn a victory.
Prediction: Rennes 0-2 Chelsea