Rennes, a powerhouse in Ligue 1, will face AEK Larnaca in their Europa League Group B opener on Thursday night in Cyprus.
The home side, led by Georgios Karapatakis, enters the matchup having lost 3-2 to Omonia in the league last weekend, while the away side, managed by Bruno Genesio, could only draw 1-1 with Troyes.
AEK Larnaca vs. Rennes Match Preview
Larnaca qualified for the Champions League in the second qualifying round after finishing second in the Championship round of the 2021-22 Cypriot First Division.
This was the first time in the club’s history that they have played at the highest level of European competition. After a swift defeat at the hands of Danish club Midtjylland, the green-yellows were relegated to Europa League qualification.
Neither FK Partizan nor Dnipro-1 proved to be a match for the Cypriot side, however, as they advanced to the group stage for just the third time in their history.
Larnaca had previously qualified for the Europa League competition in 2011–12 and 2018–19 but had inevitably been eliminated before the knockout stages. The current domestic season has gotten off to a rough start for Jose Luis Oltra’s side.
The hosts for this week’s match are winless after two matches, having drawn 0-0 at home against Doxa and losing 3-2 on the road against Europa League rivals Omonia on Saturday thanks to a goal scored by Fotis Papoulis in the 85th minute after Larnaca had come back from a 2-0 deficit to tie the game at 2-2.
At least Oltra’s squad may take heart in the fact that they scored twice in all four of their Europa League qualification matches earlier this summer, although they have only won once in their previous six group fixtures.
Digging Deeper Into Match Preview
Rennes spent the summer trying to shore up their defense, but even after a reshuffle, Genesio’s struggling squad is still only able to bring home a single point on their travels to Troyes.
Ike Ugbo placed ESTAC up, and a red card to Yoann Salmier seemed to give Rennes a chance to come back and win the game. However, Genesio’s team could only muster one goal, and it came from an unusual source: Baptiste Santamaria.
Rennes’s 2022-23 Ligue 1 campaign has been a real mixed bag thus far, with two wins, two draws, and two losses from their first six matches. Worse still, Les Rouges et Noir have yet to record a clean sheet.
Rennes’ offensive prowess has never been in doubt, and the addition of Amine Gouiri, who arrived from Nice, certainly strengthens the visitors in that aspect as they want to improve on last season’s run to the Europa Conference League last-16 when they were defeated by Leicester City.
The French club is making its fourth appearance in the Europa League group stage this season, but it has only advanced to the knockout rounds once this season, in the round of 16, where it was eliminated by Arsenal.
On Thursday, they will face Larnaca for the first time, hoping to snap a four-game losing streak on the road in the competition.
AEK Larnaca vs. Rennes Team News
Former Portugal Under-21 international and current Larnaca goalkeeper Bruno Gama has completely recovered from Achilles surgery, while Larnaca goalkeeper Andreas Paraskevas is out for the long term with a patellofemoral rupture although it would have been unlikely to start here anyway.
Although the 34-year-old is a viable option for the home team’s assault, Oltra should prioritize recalling Victor Olatunji to the starting lineup after the substitute scored a goal in the loss to Omonia.
Although Adam Gyurcso was hauled out after scoring a penalty less than a minute before Olatunji entered the game, the Hungarian is not thought to have sustained any serious injuries and should be fit to play here.
For Rennes, Warmed Omari and Arnaud Kalimuendo are both out with injuries, while Jeremy Doku, a promising young Belgian forward, is out with a muscle issue.
While Wales international Joe Rodon should start for Les Rouges et Noir alongside Christopher Wooh or Arthur Theate, Birger Meling is fighting to dislodge Adrien Truffert at left-back. The two teams met last year in the Conference League.
While Doku is out, other stars like Kamaldeen Sulemana and Lesley Ugochukwu, who is just 18, will be looking for their chance to shine. This is particularly true in light of the fact that Gouiri will be sitting out of the game due to suspension.
While Steve Mandanda and Dogan Alemdar are now the first and second choices, respectively, former top pick Alfred Gomis has fallen to third.
- AEK Larnaca Possible Starting Lineup: Piric, Rosales, Tomovic, Gonzalez, Garcia, Ledes, Sanjurjo, Faraj, Altman, Gyurcso, Olatunji
- Rennes Possible Starting Lineup: Mandanda, Traore, Rodon, Wooh, Meling, Majer, Santamaria, Ugochukwu, Bourigeaud, Terrier, Sulemana
Our Prediction: AEK Larnaca 1-3 Rennes
Larnaca, who have shown a propensity for scoring goals against European competition, could have success in this one, as Rennes are likely to rotate players and have trouble keeping things tight at the back.
Even if working without Doku and Gouiri isn’t what Genesio needs, the team still has the offensive nous to win on Thursday.