Following Saturday's 1-0 Premier League win over Leeds United, manager Brendan Rodgers made two changes to his XI. In came James Justin and Patson Daka, with several players out through injury or illness. Rennes, meanwhile, lined up with Gaetan Laborde and Martin Terrier in attack - the duo having scored 32 goals between them across all competitions this term.
It was Laborde who would flash an attempt just inches wide on five minutes, as Ligue 1's second-highest goalscorers in 2021/22 showed their intent from the off. Leicester were compact, though, and were trying to create. Daka twice pursued deep passes, but goalkeeper Alfred Gomis raced off his line on both occasions to clear.
After City had surrendered possession in midfield, Daniel Amartey had to get in the way of long-range attempt. Benjamin Bourigeaud then sent a delivery across the face of goal. The Blue Army met Rennes' early opportunities with a vociferous call, urging their side on as Harvey Barnes and Youri Tielemans both saw strikes blocked.
City's biggest chance of the opening 30 minutes fell to Nigeria's Wilfred Ndidi, who glanced Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall's corner just inches wide with his head at the near post. The Foxes had a healthy foothold in the match, and they were now tasked with capitalising on their positive play.
Barnes motored down the left flank, and he had far too much pace for Rennes skipper Hamari Traoré. Moving into the box, his tee up had too much on it for the arriving Tielemans, but right winger Marc Albrighton also followed in, and unleashed a stunner into the top corner from 18 yards.
As the fourth official signalled a minute of additional time at the end of the first half, Rennes' Jonas Martin lifted over from inside the area, much to the delight of those occupying the South Stand on Filbert Way. A goal to the good after 45 minutes, a quarter of the two-legged tie gone.
Rennes approached the second half with more impetus, and when Nayef Aguerd connected with a delivery into the six-yard box, he seemed almost certain to score. Çağlar Söyüncü had other ideas, and stood in the way before Kasper Schmeichel gathered the loose ball.
City responded to the visitors' advances, with Dewsbury-Hall drilling low at Gomis on 56 minutes, then Tielemans' drive hit Aguerd and Dewsbury-Hall bent a free-kick off target. A double change followed for the Foxes as Rodgers introduced fresh legs for the final 30 minutes. Justin and Daka made way, and on came Hamza Choudhury and Kelechi Iheanacho.
Laborde was wayward with a half-volley not long after, while Adrien Truffert threw himself in the way of Dewsbury-Hall's shot after commendable work from fellow Academy graduate Barnes down the right. The No.22 worked the ball onto his left foot, but there was no way through.
A neat-one two allowed Terrier in on goal, however Schmeichel got a boot to the attempt. Shortly after, Falvien Tair curled wide as City were able to repel Rennes once more. Another double substitution followed, as Barnes and Dewsbury-Hall came off in place of Ademola Lookman and James Maddison - the latter the scorer of two excellent goals in the previous round against Randers.
In the final 15 minutes, goalscoring opportunities were at a premium, but just as the Blue Army thought their side had settled for a one-goal lead, up popped substitute Iheanacho, who collected Albrighton's pass and side-footed into the bottom corner to make it 2-0.
It was another display in which the Foxes were fruitful in attack, but also resolute in defence. A second leg awaits in seven days' time, with a spot in the final eight up for grabs.
Winger Marc Albrighton celebrates his excellent goal against Rennes.
When Marc Albrighton scores in Europe, it's always special. On Thursday night, he added another memorable goal to his collection, as he rattled in a beautiful first-time attempt to set City on their way. The No.11 then assisted Kelechi Iheanacho for his side's second goal of the game.
Marc Albrighton earned the Foxes' Man of the Match award after scoring one and assisting another against the French outfit.
Selecting his Man of the Match while positioned in the pressbox, Matt Elliott told LCFC Radio: "All things considered, the impact and influence on the game, his contribution and quality - it's Marc Albrighton. He scored the first and set up the second."
Where do we stand?
The Nigeria star came off the bench to double Leicester's advantage.
The Foxes head to Brittany next with a 2-0 aggregate lead thanks to their fourth-consecutive victory across all formats. The last three of those have been wins to nil.
Four Academy graduates featured in Thursday's 2-0 success on Filbert Way.
Leicester City head to Emirates Stadium on Sunday for a Premier League encounter with Arsenal (4:30pm kick-off), prior to next Thursday's Europa Conference League Round of 16 second leg against Rennes at Roazhon Park (5:45pm kick-off).
All times GMT.
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