We quickly reach matchday three in this season’s Champions League group stage. Club historian Rick Glanvill and club statistician Paul Dutton are ready for Rennes…
After recording English football’s best-ever win against a Russian club on their own soil last time out in the Champions League, Chelsea are back to home sweet home with this evening’s visit of tournament novices Rennes.
The Blues have won five and lost one of our nine home games against Rennes compatriots, while the Red and Blacks were sent back across the Channel defeated after their last two visits to Aston Villa in the Intertoto Cup and Arsenal in the UEFA Europa League.
Tonight’s guests are on a five-game losing run on the road in major European competitions, with four of those defeats coming since the start of last season. They have averaged 1.5 goals conceded per game over their past 18 European matches.
In contrast Chelsea, Sevilla and Liverpool are the only teams yet to concede a goal in this season’s competition. A third clean sheet for the Blues at this stage of the group would match the achievements in 2009/10 (though they were all wins), 2008/09 and 2005/06.
Chelsea are looking to extend the current run to seven games in succession without defeat in all competitions.
— KEY STAT
Chelsea team news
Sometimes to improve your attacking you first need to reboot your defence. Since the 3-3 draw at home to Southampton, Chelsea have played four times without conceding. The first two after the ‘reset’ were 0-0, but since then the Blues have racked up seven without reply.
The win at Burnley must rank as one of the most comprehensive performances over 90-minutes since Frank Lampard took the reins. He was finally able to deploy six summer signings in a 4-3-3 line-up that handed driving roles from deep for Mason Mount and Kai Havertz, helping produce an array of passing that was magnificent at times.
Several other players have been heavily involved in all competitions so far, however, and Timo Werner was denied a rest on the bench at Burnley after Christian Pulisic came off in the warm-up. Our Captain America is already back training but this evening comes too soon.
Victory tonight would secure the Blues’ leadership of Group E ahead of the reverse fixture in France later this month. Mindful of the need to spread the workload but knowing a win is vital, Chelsea’s head coach is likely to field a balanced, strong side against the Bretons.
Callum Hudson-Odoi is one of the different options with Pulisic out, and club captain Cesar Azpilicueta may be handed right-back responsibilities again after a weekend’s rest, with Olivier Giroud possibly involved against his fellow countrymen. Jorginho and Mateo Kovacic could ease the load on N’Golo Kante should a switch be made from 4-3-3.
Rennes score a third of their goals from set-plays but are almost equally susceptible to conceding from them. Kurt Zouma, who at 18 was in the St Etienne team that beat Rennes in the 2012/13 French League Cup final, is making his mark in that regard for Chelsea.
After burying another corner at Burnley he has netted three times from dead-ball deliveries, his best-ever return in a season. Two were headers, and only Everton striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin has scored more in that fashion in the Premier League to date.
Rennes had endured five matches without a win before coming from behind to beat Brest 2-1 at Roazhon Park on Saturday, and L’Equipe reported they were ‘completely dominated from start to finish’ in last week’s narrow defeat at Sevilla. As an indicator, the Red and Blacks’ two most regular pass combinations were from goalkeeper Alfred Gomis to centre-back Damien Da Silva (12 instances), and back again (nine).
In the absence of Steven Nzonzi (who is back from suspension this evening) and teenage prodigy Eduardo Camavinga (still injured), Jonas Martin anchored midfield between skipper Benjamin Bourigeaud and Clement Grenier.
With the hosts dominating possession, resourceful inverted winger Jeremy Doku and Martin Terrier on the left were kept deep, leaving lone striker Serhou Guirassy isolated for long periods.
In contrast Sevilla were able to fire off 23 shots, eight of them repelled by the busy Gomis, others lacking accuracy. Rennes’s resolve was finally undone by a quick break, searching cross, and an easy finish by Luuk De Jong, who was left unmarked in the box for the only goal of the night.
Stephan was sanguine afterwards, reminding everyone that his team are new to this competition and will learn a lot from the defeat and its nature. He is likely to keep faith with a defensive, counter-attacking strategy in London, although experienced centre-back Daniele Rugani, on-loan from Juve, was injured against the Anadalusians and will miss out this evening.
How to watch Chelsea-Rennes
This match is covered live by BT Sport in the UK. For the relevant broadcaster where you are abroad, check UEFA’s TV Guide.
Chelsea TV’s globally available matchday shows – including early team news, exclusive interviews and analysis – start 70 minutes before kick-off on the 5th Stand app, Facebook Live and the official YouTube channel.
Elsewhere in Group E
On the other side of the group Sevilla are at home to Krasnodar. Both clubs lost ground domestically at the weekend. Los Nervionenses led 1-0 at the break away to Bilbao, but the hosts netted twice in 11 minutes to grab the points, sending the visitors tumbling to 16th in the Primera.
Russia Under-21 goalie Matvei Safonov had more difficult moments as Krasnodar lost 2-0 at Akhmat Grozny and slipped to 10th in the 16-club Premyer Liga.
The Blues and les Bleus
There was a time when Chelsea seemed unable to avoid the French teams, especially Paris Saint-Germain, in the knockout rounds of this competition. Last season’s pairing with Lille, however, was our first cross-channel link-up in the group stage since Marseille in 2010/11.
Chelsea are Rennes’ first Champions League opponents from England. In the round of 16 of the 2018/19 Europa League they were knocked out by Arsenal, who the Blues beat 4-1 in the final.
Both tonight’s teams entered the 1971/72 Cup Winners’ Cup. However Rennes fell at the first against Rangers while Chelsea, famous 21-0 victors against Jeunesse Hautcharage in round one, fell to Atvidabergs on the away goals rule in round two.
The Rennes-Chelsea ’keeper connection
Edou Mendy will line-up against his former club this evening. At Burnley the Senegal international became the first goalkeeper to keep a clean sheet in his first three Premier League appearances for the Blues since another former Rennes man, Petr Cech in August 2004.
In his 494 outings for Chelsea, Big Pete’s figures were frankly amazing: 228 clean sheets (46 per cent), and 393 goals conceded (0.8 per game). Mendy has made a fine start in his six games to date with five clean slates and just the one goal against.
The scoreline also made it four clean sheets in succession for the Blues in all competitions. No Chelsea team has managed five shut-outs in row for 10 years, when the run began with a 2-0 Champions League win against Rennes’ compatriots Marseille. Yet the current man has a way to go to match the Blues’ all-time records in that area.
Between December 2004 and February 2005 Cech managed to avoid conceding in 10 successive Premier League games (albeit either side of League Cup and Champions League matches with goals conceded).
The outright leader in terms of successive matches in any competition is none other than Chelsea’s first custodian in 1905/06, the legendary Willie Foulke. He managed nine clean sheets in a row during November and December, all in Division Two. There was an FA Cup preliminary fixture during this run, but on the same day as a league fixture played by the first team.
The latest matchday programme
The official Rennes matchday programme can be ordered here for £3.50. It features an exclusive interview with cover star Kai Havertz as well as all the usual columns and features. Subscribe, and you will also receive back issues already published this season.
Champions League results and fixtures
Lokomotiv Moscow 1 Atletico Madrid 1
Shakhtar Donetsk 0 Borussia Monchengladbach 6
Atalanta 0 Liverpool 5
Man City 3 Olympiacos 0
Midtjylland 1 Ajax 2
Porto 3 Marseille 0
Real Madrid 3 Inter 2
RB Salzburg 2 Bayern Munich 6
Istanbul Basaksehir v Man Utd 5.55pm
Zenit St Petersburg v Lazio 5.55pm
Barcelona v Dynamo Kiev 8pm
Chelsea v Rennes 8pm
Club Brugge v Dortmund 8pm
Ferencvaros v Juventus 8pm
RB Leipzig v PSG 8pm
Sevilla v Krasnodar 8pm