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Tottenham Hotspur vs. Stade Rennais Conference League Preview: The end may be near

Spurs are fighting for their European life on Thursday.

Stade Rennes v Tottenham Hotspur: Group G - UEFA Europa Conference League Photo by Aurelien Meunier - UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images

Note: It appears that this match will proceed as scheduled, but clearly there is a lot of uncertainty right now given the numerous Covid cases among staff and players at the club.

Tottenham Hotspur has put up the type of performance one might expect from this club in non-Champions League European play, on the brink of not advancing from the Europa Conference League group stage. First place is already off the table, and Spurs enter Thursday level with Vitesse for second place.

Second place and a spot in the knockout round will likely come down to tiebreakers, with Tottenham holding a slight two-goal advantage in goal difference. Vitesse faces last place Mura (which has to be super easy, right??) while Spurs host Stade Rennais, so it may be a nervy night of scoreboard watching.

Of course, it should be mentioned that there could be some mixed feelings about actually progressing in this competition. Spurs have a legitimate shot at finishing in the top four for the first time in three seasons, and maybe the reward for enduring these midweek matches is just not worth it. The club might not act that way, but there is a real silver lining should Thursday not end well.

Tottenham Hotspur (t-2nd, 7 pts) vs. Stade Rennais (1st, 11 pts)

Date: Thursday, December 9
Time: 3:00 pm ET, 8:00 pm UK
Location: Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, London, England
TV: Paramount+ (USA), BT Sport 2 (UK)

On one hand, Tottenham has been looking much better as of late, having won three straight league fixtures with legitimate attacking threat. On the other hand...Mura. The embarrassing 2-1 defeat on Thanksgiving was inexcusable, even more so because of how many regulars it featured. With a reduced pool of players available, this lineup will have to look much different.

The teams drew 2-2 in France in September, but perhaps Rennes will be somewhat uninterested having already locked up the group. The French side sits second in Ligue 1, but this is a winnable contest should Spurs want to advance. It might require more than a close victory though, keeping in mind Vitesse’s likely improvement to its goal differential.

Three themes

  1. There needs to be goals, and that is not the easiest ask against Rennes, who has looked solid defensively. This is probably a good chance for Dele Alli and Tanguy Ndombele to get another opportunity to prove their value, but do not be surprised when at least part of the regular front three gets the nod as well.
  2. It will be interesting to see which defenders see time on Thursday. Ryan Sessegnon will not be among them after his poor decisions against Mura, and Sergio Reguilon is unlikely to feature after being subbed off injured on Sunday. The back line will probably see some changes as well given then number of matches coming up, though again, all of this is unclear given the potential Covid issue.
  3. The reverse fixture ended in a draw after Spurs found a quick response in the final 15 minutes from Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg. An own goal gave the visitors an early lead, but Rennes responded soon after and the match stayed 1-1 for a while. A 71st-minute goal seemed to doom Tottenham to an all too familiar fate, but Hojbjerg found a deflected cross in the box to equalize minutes later.