coupe de france

Rennes with a title to defend

Rennes for the second year running or six-time winners St. Etienne? That is the question waiting to be answered when the latter take on the former at the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard. Paris SG had taken a kind of monopoly on the Coupe de France and then along came to Rennes last season. It was their third triumph in the competition but the first since 1971. They probably won’t face a better chance of ever defending the title than against St. Etienne.

It has been another good season for Rennes. In addition to reaching the semifinal here, they also look on course to qualify for the Champions League as things stand. In third place, a point clear of Lyon, they know that a slip-up can be capitalized upon. Saint-Etienne, meanwhile, is toiling to simply stay in Ligue 1. They find themselves 16th in the table, with only two points between them and the drop zone. Relegation is a real possibility after losing nine of their last 11 league matches.

Both Saint-Etienne and Rennes had to watch their step around potential banana skin ties in the last round, successfully navigating past lower-league opposition. There have been obstacles of greater esteem in their way to this stage. Rennes have knocked out Amiens and Angers, while Saint-Etienne won at Monaco.

Rennes have built on their success from last season thanks to the retention of key players and the emergence of new talent. For instance, the brilliant 17-year-old midfielder Eduardo Camavinga. They may not be able to hold on to these players past next summer, by which time we suspect they will have made another cup final.

Unbeaten in their last seven matches against Saint-Etienne, Rennes will have to be favoured to win this match. In contention for a Champions League place, the visitors deserve to be respected for their league form alone. However, their Coupe de France pedigree is a different beast entirely. A cup match and competition might have a life of its own, but it is hard to build a case on behalf of the home side. The draw-no-bet could be the more cautious bet to make. Those aiming for a bigger price, the away win looks the bet to place.

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