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Apr 19, 2013

Antonetti out for cup success

Rennes coach Frederic Antonetti says he understands the frustration of the club's fans as the Brittany outfit seek to end years of underachievement and win the Coupe de la Ligue this weekend, when they take on Saint-Etienne in the final at the Stade de France.

Since being bought out by the wealthy Pinault family in 1998, Rennes have established themselves as regular contenders in the top half of the table, but have failed to take the next step.

Despite considerable investment, the Champions League has thus far proved to be beyond the Bretons, who have finished fourth twice in the last decade but are yet to break into the top three.

And the club have not won a major trophy since lifting the Coupe de France in 1971, with the bitter disappointment of their 2-1 defeat to Ligue 2 Guingamp in the 2009 Coupe de France final still fresh in the memory.

The disappointment was arguably even greater last year when they lost to third-tier minnows Quevilly in the Coupe de France semi-finals, but Antonetti sought to put their so-called failure into context.

"Everyone is obsessed with winning a trophy, but that is normal," Antonetti told RMC. "Since the start of the Pinault era, Stade Rennais have generally performed well, but have failed to get into the top three or win a trophy. So that is what the people are waiting for.

"People forget that Stade Rennais hardly existed before. They talk about winning the Coupe de France in 1965 or 1971 but in the overall French football landscape they belonged somewhere between 15th and 25th place."

The Corsican, who could leave the club this summer, insists that it will be difficult for Rennes - a city of just over 200,000 people - to ever regularly compete for major trophies in the modern game.

"Football goes to the big cities. Montpellier [Ligue 1 champions last season] did it, and it is great what they did, fantastic even, because it is the exception that proves the rule," he said.

"The rule today is that Paris have broken away because they have the financial means. You need a €500 million budget if you want to win the Champions League these days. In France, just to get into Europe, you need a budget of €100 million. You can get there otherwise, but only occasionally."

Antonetti, who previously took Bastia to the Coupe de la Ligue final in 1995, when they lost to Paris Saint-Germain, was coach at Saint-Etienne during a far less glorious era for the club. He oversaw a three-year spell in Ligue 2, but left in June 2004 just after leading them to promotion.

"The club was in great difficulty," he says of his time with Les Verts. "When I took over, we were on our way to the third division. But it was an extraordinary adventure. We needed 18 months to rebuild, and then we were able to start moving forward again. But if it hadn't been me, it would have been someone else. I have happy memories of my time there but we move on and a lot of people have forgotten that period."

Saint-Etienne, who sit fourth in Ligue 1 and had not lost a game in 2013 until Tuesday's Coupe de France quarter-final defeat to Lorient, are the favourites to win Saturday's match, with Rennes currently on a run of eight games without a victory.

Meanwhile, Saint-Etienne president Roland Romeyer led a team of 42 cyclists (42 is the code of the Loire department, of which Saint-Etienne is the capital) who rode the 396 kilometres from their home city to the Stade de France.

They arrived at France's national stadium in the northern Paris suburbs on Thursday afternoon, having set off on their charity ride on Monday, and completed a lap of honour around the pitch.

Romeyer had promised to cycle all the way to the Stade de France if Les Verts managed to qualify for a first national final in 31 years.

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