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Chelsea vs. Rennes, Champions League: Preview, team news, how to watch

Match 3 of the group stage, the Mendy Derby

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Chelsea have an excellent opportunity to take firm control of our Champions League destiny tonight, as Stade Rennais come to town for the third game of the group stage. A win here, in the Mendy Derby, would put Chelsea on seven points and either level with Sevilla on the same total, or three points ahead of them, should they lose at home against Krasnodar.

The second half of our group stage campaign will be tougher than the first (away games at both Sevilla and Rennes), but seven points would most likely put us in a situation where a win against Krasnodar at home and just a point from either of those two away games would be sufficient to qualify. We should of course aim higher, but we must reach the knockout rounds at the very least. Rennes losing here would also leave them with just 1 point and very much on the outside looking in, just like, presumably, Krasnodar.

The Blues also come in with excellent momentum, and we should be looking to maintain that going into the weekend and the international break.

Date / Time: Wednesday, November 4, 2020, 20.00 GMT; 3pm EST; 1:30am IST (next day)
Venue: Stamford Bridge, SW6
Referee: Felix Zwayer (on pitch); Sascha Stegemann (VAR) — Stegemann is a new name for us, but this will be the fourth Chelsea match for Zwayer. We saw him last season in the 2-2 group stage draw at Valencia, as well as the year before in the 1-0 away first leg win against Slavia Prague in the Europa League quarterfinals. And Zwayer’s first Chelsea match was way back in 2015, the 4-0 win over Maccabi Tel-Aviv.
Forecast: Cold

On TV: BT Sport 2 (UK); none (USA); Sony Six (India); SuperSport Football Plus, Canal+ Sport 4 (NGA); elsewhere
Streaming: BT Sport Live (UK); CBS All Access, TUDNxtra (USA); Sony LIV (India); DStv Now (NGA) — if you’re in the US and you don’t want to subscribe to CBS because you’re not over 60 and/or don’t like Star Trek, you can also watch through Fubo TV, for which we have an affiliate link. That said, CBS does offer a free trial, and they will be carrying the Champions League for the next several years, so you might as well get used to their lack of actual television coverage. (I will eventually change this blurb, but not until the main CBS channel or even CBS Sports Network start showing things, and I don’t mean their “Golazo Show” or whatever they’re calling their NFL Red Zone-style nonsense. Thanks, CBS!)

Chelsea team news: Unbeaten outside of a penalty shootout in nine, with clean sheets in the last four and seven goals scored in the last two, Chelsea come in with plenty of momentum. But momentum alone doesn’t guarantee victory. It has to be actively cultivated and constantly built in order to maintain it properly.

That is to say, just because we’re in relatively good form, the work doesn’t stop. In many ways, it’s only still just beginning. Frank Lampard said similar things in his pre-match press conference (and presumably on the training ground as well), so hopefully the players are getting right message and are set to follow through with the right actions.

Beyond the mentality, the concern for Chelsea is growing fatigue, with the likes of Timo Werner, Kai Havertz, and Ben Chilwell being overly relied upon already. We saw how beneficial just a little bit of rest can be for Mason Mount, even, which should encourage us to look for opportunities to rotate. Unfortunately, this game probably is not it — especially with Christian “Glass Cannon” Pulisic set to miss out. There were also some stray reports yesterday of Kai Havertz sitting out from training. (We do get Marcos Alonso back from suspension while young Billy Gilmour is looking ever closer to returning soon.)

Stade Rennais team news: Rennes followed up their surprisingly good campaign last season with an even better start, despite losing Lev Yashin reincarnate goalkeeper Édouard Mendy to Chelsea. That said, they’ve won just one of the last six in all competitions, a stretch that included a very damaging 1-1 home draw against Krasnodar. However, that one win came this past weekend, a come-from-behind 2-1 win over Brest, so perhaps they’ve turned a corner (while still sitting third in the league behind PSG and Lille).

Unfortunately for head coach Julien Stéphan, he will be without another Eduardo, with super stud teenage midfielder Eduardo Camavinga set to miss out. Rennes will also be without frequently rumored Chelsea transfer target Daniel Rugani (at least while Maurizio Sarri was here), as well as midfielder Flavien Tait and left back Faitout Maouassa, who goes by the fantastic “Casserole Maouassa” on Google Auto-translate. (Faitout apparently means pot or stewpot, which can also be a casserole, the French pan for the namesake dish, or something.)

Anyway, Stéphan will have plenty of cooks in his kitchen still, with Steven Nzonzi in midfield and former AC Milan wonderboy M’Baye Niang up front. Mendy’s replacement is his international teammate, Alfred Gomis, who’s started their last four games.

Previously: This is our first ever meeting with Stade Rennais, so here’s some training footage from yesterday instead.

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