Celtic face Rennes at the Stade de la Route de Lorient in the Europa League on Thursday. Jason Milligan reports on the threat from the Breton side.
Rennes will go into their Europa League Group I match with Celtic full of confidence following their 2-0 victory over local rivals Lorient in the Breton Derby on Sunday.
Goals from Jirès Kembo-Ekoko and Jonathan Pitroipa (from the penalty spot) ensured a valuable three points for the club, who now sit in fifth position in the Ligue 1 table and only two points away from second position in what is turning out to be yet another competitive season in France.
Rennes spent the transfer window consolidating their attacking options, bringing in Moroccan international and Ligue 1 veteran Youssouf Hadji for his second spell at the club as well as Jonathan Pitroipa from Bundesliga side Hamburg.
The club also have an impressive youth academy, from which the likes of Yoann Gourcuff and Sylvain Wiltord have emerged. French midfielder Yann M’Vila, a graduate from the club’s youth system, has developed a strong reputation at both club and international level at just 21 years old, representing France at full international level to an impressive standard but the good news for Celtic is that manager Frederic Antonetti is set to rest the influential player on Thursday.
Kembo-Ekoko currently leads the club’s goalscoring charts along with Victor Montaño, who returned from injury to face Lorient. Both have scored four league goals each this season.
The club now have strength in depth going forward, especially with their new signings. This is something which had been lacking in recent seasons.
Kembo-Ekoko was presented with plenty of opportunities in Rennes’ Europa League match against Udinese but was unable to find the back of the net in that particular fixture. Pitroipa offers versatility option going forward whilst Youssouf Hadji can be a handful when on the field. Goals, however, are likely to come from duo of Kembo-Ekoko and Montaño.
Rennes also boast a decent defence, containing a mixture of youthful and more mature options. 28 year-old Senegalese centre-back Kader Mangane offers an experienced head at the back whilst right-back Kévin Théophile-Catherine has emerged as a solid option for the club.
So far in league competition, Rennes have put in some solid performances, including a 5-1 victory over newly-promoted Dijon on the opening day of the season and an impressive 1-1 draw with high-spending Paris Saint-Germain.
The side also won big against Sochaux (6-2) away from home in week 7. The side certainly know how to find the back of the net and sit second in the goalscoring charts, behind Montpellier, with 20 goals in 10 games.
At present, Rennes have just one point from their two Europa League matches. Their hard work against Udinese did not pay off as they succumbed to a 2-1 defeat whilst they were almost victorious over Spanish side Atlético Madrid but for a late Juanfran equaliser in a 1-1 draw.
This has proved that Rennes are taking the competition seriously, even though they are not ranked as being favourites to progress from the group. With this being said, Rennes will not be making this an easy fixture in what is already a difficult group for Celtic.