Nantes v Rennes – Stade de la Beaujoire at 18:30 Live at BT Sport
The distance between Ligue 1’s top four teams and the rest of the division has been a problem in French football for quite a while but there are signs that sleeping giant Rennes may be on verge of forcing their way back into that equation.
Les Rouges et Noirs was renowned as a selling club before the beginning of 2017/18. The likes of Ousmane Dembele, Kamil Grosicki, Paul-Georges Ntep and Pedro Henrique departed in a six-month spell two years ago and the Brittany boys appeared to lack direction and philosophy.
However, those in the boardroom opted to release the purse strings last summer and invest in the first-team squad. Young forwards Ismaila Sarr, Faitout Maouassa and Benjamin Bourigeaud all arrived for big money before Diafra Sakho and Wahbi Khazri arrived in January of 2018.
Rennes’ ambition eventually beginning to pay
Rennes was showing ambition. Veteran manager Christian Gourcuff was relieved of his duties in November having been unable to inspire a turnaround but new head coach Sabri Lamouchi was also struggling to put SRFC on the straight and narrow.
Inexperienced in club management, it took time for the former Ivory Coast boss to transition into the hot-seat. But after a gut-wrenching and underwhelming late loss to regional rivals Guingamp in early February – a result that left Rennes in 10th – the tide has started to turn in Les Rouges et Noirs’ favor.
Rennes has since fashioned a run that included one reverse in nine (W4-D4-L1), bizarrely arriving last weekend when welcoming rock-bottom Metz to their Roazhon Park home. Nevertheless, the Brittany club can prove that result was just a blip when they travel to Nantes on Friday evening.
Asian Handicap angle
The visitors are in impressive form on their travels (W3-D2-L0) and have excelled at Ligue 1’s leading lights this term. Rennes has W4-D2-L1 at the top-half and each of past three away wins has all arrived alongside clean sheets.
The flexible 4-2-3-1 Lamouchi ensures SRFC to their strengths, namely a midfield that possesses a good blend of physicality and ability on the ball. Benjamin Bourigeaud has impressed on the right flank but central midfielder Benjamin Andre runs the show behind Khazri and Sarr’s creativity in forward areas.
There’s a touch of class in the team that should be capable of causing a Nantes outfit plenty of problems. The hosts’ campaign has petered out after a bright start and the Canaries has now won just once in 10, at second-from-bottom Troyes. Claudio Ranieri’s charges have been beaten in four of their past seven home encounters, as well as each of their past four at home to top-half opponents.
Considering Rennes has also dramatically improved at the backs thanks to the burgeoning partnership between Joris Gnagnon and Jeremy Gelin, Nantes may find it difficult adding to their paltry tally of just two goals in over 10 hours of action when welcoming Ligue 1’s elite this season.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: Rennes 0.25 at 1.840