After a thrilling come from behind victory in the Coupe de France on Tuesday, Lens play their first Ligue 1 match of 2022 this Saturday, at home to Rennes from Stade Bollaert-Delelis.
Les Sang et Or failed to win their final six league fixtures of 2021, while Stade Rennais come into this contest having dropped their last two domestic games by a 2-1 score and began this year, losing 4-3 on penalties in their French Cup tie against Nancy.
Lens allow far too much time and space in their own penalty area, conceding 14 goals in their previous six matches played in Ligue 1, and when you do that against a side as potent as Rennes, you will pay the price.
The calendar year started with an emotional win for Franck Haise and his team, who took out their biggest rivals in dramatic fashion to advance to the round of 16 of the Coupe de France.
Now the attention shifts to the league, where Lens find themselves four points behind Montpellier HSC for a place in the Europa Conference League qualifiers next season.
There is no shortage of attacking threats on this team, having notched the third-most goals in the league at the midway point of this campaign (33), with 11 different players finding the back of the net thus far, while eight have at least one assist.
They have only come away empty-handed in two of their last seven matches played in all competitions, although Haise knows that his side have left several points on the table, losing their previous two Ligue 1 games despite scoring first and squandering four more points last month, having been in a winning position against PSG and Clermont, but only being able to collect a draw each time.
When playing at home, Les Sang et Or are usually able to pick up at least a point, losing only once in 2021-22 at the commune of Pas-de-Calais.
Lens may not lose often on their home field, but they have had their hands full versus Stade Rennais, going winless in seven successive home matches against them, winning only once over their previous 15 contests.
Rennes may need a fresh start to the campaign following a December, which was anything but memorable for Bruno Genesio and his side.
When Les Rouges et Noirs can jump ahead early, this team can tear their opponents apart, scoring three or more goals in a league fixture four times in their first 19 games played and winning five matches in all competitions by at least three goals.
This team can score in bunches, but lately, other sides have focused on limiting the damage that Rennes can cause in dangerous areas, as neither Nice, Monaco, nor Nancy had more possession than them, but still managed to keep them at bay for the most part, conceding only once in each of those encounters and coming away victorious.
The side from Brittany have only won two Ligue 1 matches in this campaign when scoring a goal or fewer, but they have notched multiple goals in four of their previous five domestic road fixtures.
Stade Rennais have done an excellent job of taking the home crowd out of their games as the visitors, scoring the opening goal in all but two of their road fixtures to this point of the domestic season.
However, taking the lead early does not do you any good unless you can finish the job, something that Rennes failed to do in their opening match of the year versus Nancy and in their last league game versus Les Monegasques.
Lens will be missing Ignatius Ganago and Massadio Haidara, who are representing Cameroon and Mali respectively at the African Cup of Nations, while Deiver Machado is expected to return soon from his meniscus injury.
Seko Fofana kept their hopes of a French Cup alive, netting twice in the second half of their match earlier this week and putting home the decisive penalty, to the relief of Jonathan Clauss, who missed from the spot in the fourth round of their shootout victory versus Lille.
Przemyslaw Frankowski has been a nice addition to Lens, with the Polish international, who signed from the Chicago Fire of MLS over the summer, notching four goals and four assists for his new club, while leading goalscorer Arnaud Kalimuendo has a goal in each of his last two league fixtures.
Rennes are missing three players on international duty for the African Cup of Nations, including Kamaldeen Sulemana, Nayef Aguerd and Hamari Traore, who will be suiting up for Ghana, Morocco and Mali respectively in that competition.
Alfred Gomis is out due to COVID-19, Romain Salin has a calf strain, Birger Meling is nursing a groin issue and Jeremy Gelin is out until the spring with an ACL injury.
Gaetan Laborde, Mathys Tel and Loic Bade all missed their penalty kicks against Nancy as the Ligue 2 outfit ousted them from the French Cup, while Martin Terrier leads the way in goals for them with nine, one back of Wissam Ben Yedder for second in the league.
Lens possible starting lineup:
Leca; Danso, Wooh, Gradit, Clauss; Frankowski, Fofana, Boli; Kalimuendo, Costa, Jean
Rennes possible starting lineup:
Bonet; Truffert, Bade, Omari, Assignon; Tait, Santamaria, Majer; Terrier, Laborde, Bourigeaud