TRAFTON KENNEY - Friday, March 12, 2010
Carlos Bocanegra and Rennes hope to build on last week's win over Monaco when they travel east to take on eighth-place Valenciennes at the Stade Nungesser this Sunday.
With just a point separating the two teams in the Ligue 1 standings, it promises to be a close contest.
Rennes Coach Frédéric Antonetti will be relieved to have defender Abdou Kader Mangane and top scorer Asamoah Gyan back at his disposal, with both key players suspended last game for picking up red cards against Montpellier.
With Mangane back in action, Rod Fanni is expected to resume duties at right back with Romain Danzé relegated to the bench. Carlos Bocanegra, who scored the winner last week over Monaco, has started the last three games and is expected to remain at left back.
Meanwhile, Valenciennes, coming off a 1-0 loss to Auxerre last weekend, welcomed right back Rudy Mater and forward Filip Sebo back to training Wednesday morning. Both players are expected to feature in Sunday's game.
The two teams last met in November, Valenciennes beating Rennes 3-0 at the Stade de la Route-de-Lorient - a day to forget for Les Rouges et Noirs with the team suffering their heaviest defeat of the season.
Valenciennes, however, have struggled lately to replicate that goal-scoring form, tallying roughly a goal a game in their past five outings.
Mamadou Samassa and Johan Audel remain the most potent attacking threats for Valenciennes with six goals a piece this season.
Bocanegra will not soon forget the trouble the tandem of Grégory Pujol and Fahid Ben Khalfallah gave him last November. Pujol made the highlight reel with the game's third goal, a stunning drive that crashed off the underside of the bar
At the other end of the field, Asamoah Gyan will be eager to return to the field and link up with Sylvain Marveaux. Jerome Leroy, recently rewarded with a one-year extension to his contract, will orchestrate things in the Rennes midfield alongside Yann M'Vila.
Having already reached the 40-point benchmark - regarded by most pundits as the minimum needed to avoid relegation - both teams will be eyeing a coveted place in Europe next season.