Rennes gunning for French Cup final revenge
French football's great underachievers Rennes will look to end a major trophy drought of more than four decades when they face Brittany rivals Guingamp in Saturday's Cup final at the Stade de France.
Rennes' recent history has been peppered with draining disappointment, none greater than their defeat in the 2009 French Cup final against the same Guingamp side, albeit one who were then in the second tier.
On that occasion, Rennes took a second-half lead only for a brace of goals by Brazilian forward Eduardo to give Guingamp the first, and to date only, major trophy success in their history.
Rennes were also beaten by Saint-Etienne in last season's League Cup final, leaving them still without a major title since beating Lyon to lift the Cup back in 1971.
Such a record is not good enough for a club from the capital of the prosperous region of Brittany and owned by the billionaire Francois Pinault, and a second final defeat to Guingamp - the club where Didier Drogba shot to prominence from a town with a population of little more than 7,000 - five years later is unthinkable.
However, Rennes coach Philippe Montanier has played down talk of revenge and also insisted that his team should not feel under too much pressure, pointing to the fact that Guingamp are now a top-division side and have already won both league meetings of the teams this season.
"It's 15th in the league against 16th," said Montanier, who is hoping skipper Romain Danze will be fit in time to feature.
"There is no favourite especially as a final is a one-off occasion. Guingamp maybe have the psychological advantage because they have beaten us twice in the league this season. But it will be an evenly-matched final."
When asked whether the 2009 final between the teams would have any bearing, the former Real Sociedad coach replied: "I don't think so. Only Danze is left from that game and it was five years ago.
- 'Context is different' -
"The context is different and so are the teams - Guingamp were in Ligue 2 at the time. For us it's more about focussing on a final than worrying about revenge or what happened five years or 35 years ago.
"We have nothing to lose because if we lose people will continue to say that we are a team that always loses in finals. And if we win we will have ended a wait of 43 years.
"It would be a huge disappointment if we lost, but brilliant if we won."
Both clubs remain in danger of relegation to Ligue 2 with just three games left in the league campaign, but for Guingamp - coached by former Rennes playmaker Jocelyn Gourvennec - the knockout competition has proved to be a welcome distraction.
Inspired by the goals of Malian international striker Mustapha Yatabare, who has netted seven in the competition so far, Guingamp's run to the Stade de France included a 3-1 extra-time victory against Monaco in the semi-finals.
With Rennes beating second-tier Angers 3-2 in the other semi-final tie, that set up a Breton derby at the national stadium and French Football Association president Noel Le Graet, who hails from Guingamp, is certain the sell-out 80,000 crowd will make it an occasion to remember.
"This final is for the people of Brittany who are coming back to Paris, and I'm sure we will see the same spectacular show that we saw in 2009," said Le Graet.
"The clubs have agreed to both provide traditional Brittany music, with 50 musicians each. After that, long live the sport, nothing more."
If Danze does play, the only absentee for Rennes will be left-back Cheik M'Bengue, who has a thigh problem. Guingamp have a fully-fit squad with Lionel Mathis - their only survivor from 2009 - available after injury.
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