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Rennes 1-2 Chelsea, Champions League: Tactical Analysis

Breaking down Chelsea’s last-minute victory against Stade Rennais

First half

Rennes set up with a block from midfield, where they held their lines and pushed up to pressure through the middle. Their wingers dropped back to give them a wide defensive shape, and the midfield three pushed up high to pressure the ball in moments, which would give Chelsea the opportunity to play through pressure and exploit the spaces left behind the midfielders centrally.

Wide areas would also provide an opportunity to break through Rennes lines when they were holding their shape, by using the full width and runners behind after drawing the fullbacks out of position. On the left, Chilwell drawing the fullback out wide would leave the space on the inside for Mount to make countless runs behind, while from the right, the combinations between Hudson-Odoi and Azpilicueta would draw pressure onto the ball before finding passes behind, such as for the early chance for Werner to score. The spaces around their fullbacks was a constant problem for Rennes throughout the match, in both deep defending inside the box and on counter attacks.

Rennes kept the ball better than the previous game thanks to the quality of Camavinga to hold it and find teammates, which would cause Chelsea to drop off from pressing aggressively as often as they could. Guirassy was the main target of the frontline, being a powerful target man with back to goal, holding off the and drawing fouls, but from they would often lose the ball on the wings and be left open for counters. Mount recovering the ball deep and finding Hudson-Odoi running behind would see Chelsea take the lead in the game.

Rennes’ main threat came through corners, wherein they attacked the ball aggressively on both the near and the far post, and often won the header, forcing Mendy into making saves to maintain Chelsea’s lead before halftime.

Second half

Rennes kept the majority of possession and pushed Chelsea back throughout the second half, where they could use switches into the corners from midfield and look to create from the final third. From the corners the fullbacks could cross the ball into the box, the wingers could move inside to shoot from the edge of the box, or combine to get the ball into the box.

Chelsea looked to push up and press as a team when possible, and by winning the ball high up they could hold on to possession from a high position, as well as being able to counter attack into spaces when winning the ball in midfield.

Chelsea’s changes made an impact in the game. Giroud going on saw Chelsea looking to play off him, which allowed them to hold the ball and move up the field or to win free kicks and again push Rennes back to defending inside their own half. Meanwhile, Kanté going on to play in an advanced midfield position allowed him to use his anticipation and energy to dominate spaces and second balls. With these changes Chelsea took away the possession Rennes had enjoyed for the majority of the half.

However, Rennes continued to cause real problems from corners, and after forcing Mendy into several saves, they managed to score an equaliser in the final stages of the game. With little time to go Chelsea reacted well and with Kanté recovering the ball in midfield they launched a quick counter that would see Giroud score the late winner.

Conclusion

Chelsea created chances from wide areas after breaking Rennes defensive lines from midfield and managed to take the lead from a quality counter attack in the first half. Even when Rennes had possession, Chelsea were in good control of defensive situations. But the defending of corners was a problem throughout the match. Rennes had the majority of possession in the second half until Chelsea brought on Kanté and Giroud, but without extending their lead, Chelsea left the door open for Rennes to equalise late on after a number of good chances from corners. However, Chelsea reacted well to the goal and managed to retake the lead with the little time they had left in the game, with the changes from the bench playing a pivotal role.