Tottenham Hotspur vs Stade Rennais UEFA Europa Conference League preview: Win or die


Note: It looks like this game will go ahead as planned, but there is clearly a lot of uncertainty at the moment given the many Covid cases among club staff and players.

Tottenham Hotspur put in the type of performance one would expect from this club in a European non-Champions League game, on the brink of not making it out of the Europa Conference League group stage. The top spot is already off the table and Spurs go level on Thursday with Vitesse for second place.

Second place and a place in the knockout round will likely come down to tiebreakers, with Tottenham holding a slight two-goal advantage on goal difference. Vitesse take on last-placed Mura (which must be super easy, right??) while Spurs host Stade Rennais, so it can be a nervous night watching the scoreboard.

Of course, it’s worth mentioning that there might be mixed feelings about the actual progress in this competition. Spurs have a legitimate chance to finish in the top four for the first time in three seasons, and perhaps the reward for enduring those midweek games just isn’t worth it. The club may not act that way, but there is a real silver lining if Thursday doesn’t end well.

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

Dated: Thursday, December 9
Time: 3:00 p.m. ET, 8:00 p.m. UK
Site: Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, London, England
TV: Paramount+ (USA), BT Sport 2 (UK)

On the one hand, Tottenham have looked much better of late, having won three consecutive league games with a legitimate attacking threat. On the other hand… Mura. The embarrassing 2-1 loss at Thanksgiving was inexcusable, especially given the number of regulars it featured. With a reduced pool of players available, this composition will have to be very different.

The teams drew 2-2 in France in September, but perhaps Rennes will be somewhat indifferent having already locked the group in. The French side sit second in Ligue 1 but it’s a winnable contest if Spurs are to advance. However, that might take more than a narrow win, bearing in mind Vitesse’s likely improvement to their goal differential.

Three themes

  1. You need goals, and it’s not the easiest thing against Rennes, who look solid defensively. It’s probably a good chance for Dele Alli and Tanguy Ndombele to have another chance to prove their worth, but don’t be surprised if at least some of the top three regulars get the nod as well.
  2. It will be interesting to see which defenders see the weather on Thursday. Ryan Sessegnon won’t be among them after his poor decisions against Mura, and Sergio Reguilon is unlikely to feature after picking up an injury on Sunday. The backline will likely see some changes as well given the number of games to come, but again that’s all unclear given the potential Covid issue.
  3. The reverse game 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 game remained 1-1 for a while. A 71st-minute goal seemed to doom Tottenham with an all-too-familiar fate, but Hojbjerg found a deflected cross into the box to equalize minutes later.

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