American defender Carlos Bocanegra and his Rennes teammates face perhaps their stiffest test of the year as they head into Stade Gerland tonight to take on league leaders Olympique Lyon.
Fresh off nearly toppling the mighty Barcelona on Wednesday night in the Champions League (a match which ended 1-1), Lyon coach Claude Puel is looking to carry the same attacking spirit into tonight’s match.
The real reason Bocanegra and his team will have their hands full is that this same red-hot Lyon is itching for revenge from a humiliating 3-0 loss at the hands of Rennes in the Stade del la Route-de-Lorient back on October 5th (their worst loss of the year). Lyon, a team accustomed to winning trophies every year, hates to lose - but to losing to those "upstart punks from Bretgane" really got their goat.
Lyon is expected to start essentially the same lineup as they used Wednesday against Barca with the possible exception of hometown hero and striker, Karim Benzema, who may be rested initially in favor of Frederic Piquionne. The six-foot, two-inch Piquionne is deceptively fast and always dangerous on set piece plays (not to mention he is even more dangerous when served by the sublime dead ball skills of Juninho).
Questions remains whether Lyon will be able to bring the same 90 minute intensity tonight against a better rested Rennes side. Can their boisterous home crowd help carry them through?
A road win could vault Rennes back to 5th place while a draw would bring then even with Lille in 6th place in Ligue 1. Lyon, sitting atop the league with a comfortable six point cushion over Toulouse, can always use the points but tonight, its all about pride.
Lyon has not lost at home so far this season while Rennes has only won three wins on the road (out of 12 played so far). Rennes has earned six draws on the road so stealing a point from a fatigued Lyon side could represent success for Guy Lacombe's side, provided they can withstand the early barrage from the revenge-minded home team.
Bocanegra is expected, as usual, to start at left back for Stade Rennais, which is expected to play a 4-5-1 of striker Briand, midfielders Br.Cheyrou, Sow, Danze’, Mbia and Lemoine, a back line of Bocanegra, Aubey, Hansson, and Fanni, plus Douchez in goal.
More later after the match.