Dijon FCO vs Stade Rennais 


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Today’s free tip is in the French Ligue 1 encounter between Dijon FCO and Stade Rennais. On paper, this should be a routine away but I have my doubts about that. Stade Rennais are more than capable of winning this fixture, and are rightly the favourites to do so. The table-toppers have been flambuoyant so far this season, bagging fourteen goals in six games, and their hosts are still yet to win a game. I’m sure all the statistics whores out there are all over the away win, and good luck to them!

For me though, this should be a closer game than the odds reflect. I won’t deny that Stade Rennais are the more likely team to win this one but they’re not the best team in Ligue 1, and Dijon FCO certainly aren’t the worst, so let’s add a touch of perspective here, shall we? Stade Rennais are not doing anything this season that they’ve not been doing for years now other than that they’re converting more regularly. They’ve long been a strong attack-minded team, solely focused on outscoring teams rather than attempting to contain. Just because they’re in a good moment does not absolve them of their weaknesses, which are very much still there, I assure you!

True enough, I was very impressed to see them pick up Dalbert and especially Rugani before the transfer window closed, both of which are great signings, and Rugani improves the weakest area of their team considerably. I think that loan move in itself shows how far the French game has come, and it also tells you that Stade Rennais have no excuses for failing to qualify for the next European campaign too. This squad of theirs – it really should be too good to fail.

The biggest problem Stade Rennais have is that they’re crap when they don’t have the ball. With it, they’re electric at times, attacking via numerous players. They tend to overload teams with blistering pace and intelligent movement. I’ve been particularly impressed to see them manage that despite the absence of Lea-Siliki, Niang, Hunou, and sometimes Maouassa and Terrier too. That tells you how far their attack has come in terms of depth. As a side note, I can’t wait to see Belgian wonderkid Doku in action for them. Stade Rennais have a good history of encouraging and developing talented wingers, and he should fit into that mould rather well.

But yes, as I said – Stade Rennais struggle without the ball. Rather than buying defenders and switching styles, Stade Rennais instead place a great deal of faith and trust in a deep-lying midfielder to orchestrate things. That concept worked well for them for a while as Clement Grenier is a fine choice to do it. However, he’s had a lot of injuries over the past two seasons, and that’s seriously disrupted Stade Rennais’ ability to control games, hence their topsy-turvy form guide. That’s why the club moved to sign Nzonzi, which was a very astute piece of business as he’s a natural in that role; a very underrated player too. The trouble is that he is out tonight, and boss Stephan has phased Grenier out now – I don’t think they have the right relationship for the ex-Olympique Lyonnais man to simply be thrusted back into the action, and that means that Stade Rennais controlling this game is unlikely, to say the least.

What could be worse than that for Stade Rennais? Well, key centre-back da Silva is also out, so not only is their defence now more exposed, but it’s also vulnerable, which is not ideal. Even new goalkeeper Gomis, signed from Dijon FCO, is unable to debutise tonight. Their attack is still in good condition because of how athletic and confident they are. I think they’re going to have to score two or three goals in order to win tonight though, and that makes me doubt them a tad, especially after an international break. Let’s also not forget that they’re up against FK Krasnodar next week, which is likely to be their priority…

For me, this game represents an opportunity for Dijon FCO to impress. Absolutely nothing is expected of them so there’s no pressure on them. They’re at home, where they’re usually very strong. Their opponents are without two key regulars, and are likely to prioritise their next fixture over this one. Furthermore, Dijon FCO are only without two players that would normally be regulars/semi-regulars, which are Amalfitano and Benzia respectively. I’m certainly not guaranteeing an upset here, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there was one.

When a team is at the bottom of the table, I think it’s important to understand why they’re there because in my experience, it’s seldom because they’re the worst team. The worst team will always finish at the bottom of the table, but other than, it’s predominantly circumstances that lead to such. I believe that to be true of a pretty good Dijon FCO side too. I mean, do people really think that they’re worse than Nimes Olympique, Lorient, or Metz? I don’t – and I expect them to prove it in the coming months, Covid-19 permitting!

The circumstances that led to Dijon FCO’s disastrous start to the season was what happened in their attack. Last season, they had Tavares and Mavididi to score the goals with Balde and Amalfitano as their main creative threats. Mavididi left pre-season, and now turns out for Montpellier HSC. Benzia – understudy forward – is injured. Amalfitano is injured. Tavares, their last mainstay, a seriously underrated target man, didn’t play. Now, I don’t know if he was genuinely injured or not; it seems to me he was trying to engineer a move away from the club. Anyway, he left, leaving Dijon FCO with young Chouiar and Balde to carry the attack which…well, it’s simply not enough, especially as Balde missed a number of games through injury too! Subsequently, an attack-minded team found themselves on the receiving end of some heavy results because that’s what happens when you attack and don’t score goals.

This team has done some good business though. Acquiring Kosovan creator Celina was a stroke of genius; he’s a very good player, and provides a level of composure, and a vision, that simply isn’t in the squad without him. Typically, Dijon FCO are more reliant on athleticism than anything else but Celina’s arrival changes that, and gives boss Jobard options. Balde is back from injury now, and has been for a couple of weeks. Then the club went out and signed Ivorian attacker Roger Assale, and that’s a bloody good signing. Spanish football wasn’t for him, but Ligue 1 definitely is. He’s a very clever attacker with jinking runs and good finishing; he’ll buy his team lots of free-kicks, penalties, and will create chances of his own accord. Therefore, this attack that was previously atrocious has suddenly become rather dangerous, especially as the team has barely been affected by the international break whatsoever, although it is worth noting that Assale is out tonight.

All Dijon FCO need is a bit of confidence, and then you’ll see what they’re made of. I think they’ve assembled a good mid-table squad here, and they’re more than capable of proving it on the pitch. The signs were all there against Montpellier HSC as to how good they can be, and I would not want to be on the receiving end of underestimating what is essentially a good team. There’s a reason Dijon FCO have an excellent home record versus Stade Rennais, and it’s because they know how to play against them, and they always seem to manage to face them when their opponents are without their midfield controller, which is ironically the case again tonight. The athleticism and directness of Dijon FCO causes teams problems, and Stade Rennais are not immune to that. Therefore, I expect a closer game than the bookies do, especially with Stade Rennais’ defensive situation in mind.

I still don’t have the balls to trust Dijon FCO to get a positive result tonight though. They are a bit demoralised, and they’re not good at the back. However, their attack is more dangerous than it seems, and Stade Rennais are not the kind of team that can stop teams scoring against them, especially not with tonight’s absentee complications in mind. Like I said above, the visitors are right to be favourites here, but personally I would not take the risk tonight.

For me, the best way to approach this game – which should be open, and laden with chances – is to back over 2.5 goals at evens. That way, whether Stade Rennais do maul them or not, you should still be in a good place because neither of these two teams attempt to defend because they can’t, and it’s not in line with the way they prefer to play. Therefore, I’m expecting goals, so let’s see if Lady Luck agrees with me, shall we? History does!

Verdict: Over 2.5 goals at evens. 

Friday’s Thoughts

As ever, if there are any explanations required then please feel free to post a comment! For the remainder of my thoughts on today’s games, see below, although I feel compelled to write that the below are not necessarily my tips but merely my thoughts. For confidence ratings, you’ll need to go to the members section here.

Brazilian Serie A:

Goias vs Bahia 

Croatian Prva Liga:

Slaven Koprivnica vs Istra 1961 

Finnish Veikkausliiga: 

Haka Valkeakoski vs TPS 

Finnish Ykkonen:

MP vs MyPa 

French Ligue 1:

Dijon FCO vs Stade Rennais 
Nimes Olympique vs Paris Saint-Germain 

Italian Serie B:

Brescia vs Lecce 

Portuguese Liga 2: 

Leixoes Matosinhos vs Varzim 

Swiss Challenge League:

Stade Lausanne-Ouchy vs Aarau 
Chiasso vs FC Thun 
FC Wil vs SC Kriens 
Winterthur vs FC Schaffhausen 
Neuchatel Xamax vs Grasshopper Zurich 

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