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Aug 8, 2021 at 12pm UK
Deen Sulemana (14')
FT(HT: 1-1)
Fofana (19')
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Preview: Rennes vs. Lens - prediction, team news, lineups

:Headline: Preview: Rennes vs. Lens - prediction, team news, lineups:
Sports Mole previews Sunday's Ligue 1 clash between Rennes and Lens, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.
Sports Mole

Rennes host Lens in Ligue 1 on Sunday, with a closely-fought game expected between two sides who finished only one point apart last season.

Rennes ultimately pipped newly-promoted Lens to a Europa Conference League qualification place on the last day of the season.

Match preview

Rennes undoubtedly improved after appointing former Lyon boss Bruno Genesio as Julien Stephan's replacement in March earlier this year.

The 54-year-old took 20 points from his 11 matches in charge, hauling Les Rennais up the table and into a European spot for the second successive season after featuring in the Champions League group stages for the first time last season.

The club's hierarchy appear to have aspirations of returning there given their financial outlay so far this summer, with central defender Loic Bade arriving from their forthcoming opponents for around £15m to replace the outgoing Damien Da Silva, while 19-year-old winger Kamaldeen Sulemana has been brought in from Nordsjaelland for £13.5m.

With most Ligue 1 clubs struggling to spend much due to the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the issues surrounding France's television deals, there could be an opportunity for Rennes to push for a top three position once again.

An excellent start against a decent Lens outfit on Sunday would certainly aid those aims.

For Lens, even replicating last season's seventh-placed finish would have to be regarded as an excellent achievement given that it was their first season back in Ligue 1 after gaining promotion.

Franck Haise has excelled in his first major role in management, generally setting up the side in a 3-4-1-2 formation since taking over last year.

Perhaps there was an element of most opponents taking time to work out the intricacies of that system, as Lens' results did drop off a little during the second half of the season, ultimately costing them a European place.

However, privately at least, Haise may not mind too much about the lack of additional games given that he is not blessed with the largest squad at his disposal.

Moreover, unless another loan deal can be made with Paris Saint-Germain later in the window, Sang et Or will not have the services of teenage sensation Arnaud Kalimuendo this season, while Bade has also departed the club as mentioned.

Former Chelsea winger Gael Kakuta has at least had his loan deal turned into a permanent one for an eye-catchingly cheap fee of £4.5m, though, with the 30-year-old undoubtedly one of Haise's key men given that he often occupies the free role in his aforementioned system.

The Congo international will need to be at his free-flowing best on Sunday if his side are to gain a positive result from a tricky opening day test at Rennes.

Team News

Rennes are set to be without Jeremy Gelin for the foreseeable future after the central defender suffered a cruciate ligament rupture early in pre-season last month.

As such, there is an emphasis on Bade to hit the ground running against his former club on Sunday.

With Jeremy Doku involved for Belgium at Euro 2020 and likely to be eased into the domestic season, Sulemana may also make his competitive debut for the club in order to provide natural pace and width on the flanks.

Lens, meanwhile, will be without Ibrahima Balde after the teenager underwent surgery last month, while Clement Michelin is also doubtful due to a knee issue.

Christopher Wooh, who has joined from Nancy, could be provided an opportunity to become the man to replace Bade in the middle of Haise's back three.

Rennes possible starting lineup:
Gomis; Traore, Bade, Aguerd, Meling; Camavinga, Tait, Bourigeaud; Guirassy, Terrier, Sulemana

Lens possible starting lineup:
Leca; Clauss, Gradit, Wooh, Medina, Haidara; Cahuzac, Doucoure, Fofana; Sotoca, Kakuta

We say: Rennes 2-1 Lens

We expect to see an entertaining game between two sides who should be competing in the top half of Ligue 1 this season, but ultimately Rennes have more quality and depth within their squad.

A couple of departures have left Lens with some holes to fix, while replicating a fine first season following promotion is always a tough task for any side.

Top tip

Our expert tipster partners at Sporita.com are predicting over 1.5 goals in this match. Click here to find out what else they are predicting for this game and for more of their tried-and-tested football tips.Over 1.5:data

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