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Stade Rennais vs. Tottenham Hotspur Conference League Preview: Not a great time for this

The Group Stage kicks off a hectic couple weeks for Spurs.

Tottenham Hotspur v Pacos de Ferreira - UEFA Conference League: Play-Offs Leg Two Photo by Tottenham Hotspur FC/Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images

After a discouraging weekend defeat against Crystal Palace, Tottenham Hotspur must now travel to France for the start of the Europa Conference League Group Stage. Love or hate the competition, it represents perhaps the clearest path for a trophy, though these sorts of things never come easily, especially after being drawn into one of the most competitive groups.

First up is Ligue 1 side Stade Rennais, who took both legs against Rosenborg of Norway in the Playoff Round. Domestically, the start of the season has not been great, as Rennes is just 1-2-2 and in the middle of the table thus far. Quality-wise, this club is probably close to those at the bottom of the Premier League, which is still better than most opponents in these types of competitions.

Spurs had to win the second leg at home against Paços de Ferreira after falling behind in Portugal, but a strong lineup worked quickly to secure a spot in the Group Stage. It would be great to open the round with three points against the best of the three other teams in the group, but this match is far from guaranteed, especially on the road.

Stade Rennais (0 pts) vs. Tottenham Hotspur (0 pts)

Date: Thursday, September 16
Time: 12:45 pm ET, 5:45 pm UK
Location: Roazhon Park, Rennes, France
TV: Paramount+ (USA), BT Sport 1 (UK)

Normally, these types of fixtures call for heavy rotation, and it is likely that Nuno Espirito Santo’s side will feature some atypical faces. However, this might be due to necessity more than strategy, with so many starters dealing with injuries or still stuck in quarantine. Add in a huge derby against Chelsea on Sunday and it becomes even less clear who can actually even take the pitch in France.

Tottenham has struggled to generate any sort of attack in the league, so using the Conference League to find some rhythm would be a good benefit of the competition. But with the personnel on hand — both in the midfield and the front line — this could be a challenge. Rennes does not offer the staunchest defense, though, so hopefully there will be some opportunities to score should the attack sort itself out.

Three themes

  1. The early xGA numbers might be a little less favorable than reality, but either way, the defense has clearly improved under Nuno. Rennes sit near the bottom of Ligue 1 in xG and should not pose much of a threat, even at home. Spurs must take control of the match and do whatever is necessary to keep the ball moving up the pitch, knowing that they can take some risks.
  2. Tottenham has not previously played Rennes in European competition. The last French team Spurs faced was Monaco, both in the group stages of the 2015/16 Europa League (featuring a home win and road draw) and the 2016/17 Champions League (both losses).
  3. As a reminder, the Europa League and the Conference League have changed format this season. Group runners-up must now play a third place team from the competition above them to earn a spot in the Round of 16, so finishing first in the group actually makes a difference, allowing direct entry into the knockout rounds.