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Rennes to Beat Maccabi Haifa in Europa League

Over the past international soccer break, we saw three managers return to their former club for a second spell. Walter Mazzarri took charge of Napoli whilst Marcelino became Villarreal’s third permanent manager of the season. We also saw a homecoming in Brittany as Julien Stephan took charge of Rennes, which visits Maccabi Haifa in a Europa League match on Thursday.

Despite being on the road, the French side is the soccer betting odds favorite in the Group F match.

Rennes to Beat Maccabi Haifa in Europa League
Rennes' players | Lou Benoist / AFP

Rennes Seeks Turnaround Under Stephan

It has been five years since Stephan became the club’s interim manager, with the then-38-year-old qualifying Rennes to their first-ever European knockout round. A few months later, he led Rennes to their first trophy in 48 years as they defeated PSG on penalties in the 2019 Coupe de France Final. Stephan would lead Rennes to their first-ever Champions League qualification before parting ways in 2021, but he is back at the helm after 2½ years.

Despite spending big this summer on the likes of Enzo Le Fee, Ludovic Blas, Fabian Rieder and Nemanja Matic, Rennes struggled for consistency this season under Bruno Genesio, prompting his dismissal, but they have the talent to make a serious turnaround in the second half of the campaign.

Stephan’s first match back in the saddle would see Rennes take the lead within a minute via Amine Gouiri only to cough up the equalizer before the break, but BenjaminBourigeaud restored their advantage immediately after halftime and Arthur Theate doubled the lead in the 66th minute to secure their first Ligue 1 win since October 1.

Ligue 1 betting connoisseurs will be wary of putting too much confidence behind a Rennes side that has had a hot-and-cold year, but rest assured: They aren’t going to squander an opportunity to get a second straight win on Thursday.

The French club sit three points above Villarreal and eight points above Maccabi Haifa, both of whom have a game in hand, and five points above Panathinaikos. If Rennes can beat Maccabi Haifa, they will take a huge step toward winning Group F.

Their first Europa League group stage fixture saw them thrash Maccabi Haifa 3-0, taking the lead within a minute and doubling it before halftime, before losing 1-0 to Villarreal and twice edging Panathinaikos 2-1 and 3-1. The Las Vegas sportsbooks are backing Rennes here, but the betting lines aren’t particularly overwhelming either. If you were to successfully place a $50 bet on Rennes to win and over 1.5 goals, you’d stand to take home a profit of $45.45.

Maccabi Haifa have had a fairly high-scoring run of form as of late. After falling in a 3-0 loss to Young Boys to exit the Champions League, the Israeli club beat Hapoel Jerusalem 2-1 and lost to Maccabi Petah Tikva (3-2) before losing to Rennes, drawing 1-1 to Bnei Sakhnin, beating Maccabi Netanya 3-2 and drawing 0-0 to Panathinaikos.

Their first match in over a month would see them lose 2-1 to Villarreal before beating Hapoel Petach-Tikva 2-1. The odds may be in Rennes’ favor as they look to get their hands on another victory, but by parlaying that result with over 1.5 goals, you stand to make a killing on your Europa League picks. Rennes’ defense continues to be their Achilles heel, having failed to maintain a clean sheet since Sept. 24, but it is also evident that they boast an attacking core rivaled by few teams in France.

Indeed, whilst the likes of Le Fee, Gouiri, Bourigeaud and Martin Terrier have the potential to wreak havoc on any defense, Rennes’ attacking depth means that they have plenty of lethal game-changers against tired legs from Desire Doue to Arnaud Kalimuendo to Ibrahim Salah.

Rennes are certainly one of the sleeping giants of this Ligue 1 season, sitting 10th in the table, but they certainly have the tools to enjoy success with a new manager and find some much-needed momentum. I’m expecting them to continue their winning start with a comfortable three points in Budapest against Maccabi Haifa.

 

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