Milan, don’t underestimate Rennes! Everything to know about the Rossoneri’s Europa League rivals

Following their “relegation” to the Europa League, AC Milan has the undoubted duty to push through to the final stages of the second most prestigious competition in Europe.

Their first hurdle, named after the Play-Off draws in Nyon, is French side Rennes. This will be the first time the Rossoneri will face off against them in a continental tournament.

Rennes has undoubtedly been one of the biggest disappointments this year, matched only perhaps by Lyon. Their season has been characterised by a number of negative phases, the most recent was last Thursday’s home defeat in the final European group match against Villarreal, causing the elusive first place to slip through their fingers. Their league performance hasn’t been much better. Currently, the French side is settled in 13th place on the domestic table with 16 points, 12 points adrift of a spot in Europe which now seems more of a dream.

In the last transfer session, Rennes fans were expecting a significant quality leap, but instead, they watched their top players leave. Notably, Jérémy Doku was sold to Manchester City for 60 million euros.

Following the dismissal of Bruno Genesio, the team is again under the stewardship of Julien Stephan, the coach who managed to secure a historical qualification in the Champions League in the 2019-20 season. Back then, they had a certain Eduardo Camavinga, who now plays for Real Madrid.

Under Stephan, Rennes continues to experiment with a three-man defence, previously tried with limited success by his predecessor. Their defence is composed of Arthur Theate, previously of Bologna, Belocian, and either Omari or Wooh, with the latter slightly ahead. Both defend the goal taken care of by veteran Steve Mandanda, the former Marseille player with 35 national team appearances from 2008 to 2022. Their midfield line is expected to be held by four players, anchored by star Nemanja Matic, tasked with bringing experience to this relatively young team (average age 24.5). In attack, both Martin Terrier and Arnaud Kalimuendo stand out, despite their goal droughts, having managed 1 and 4 goals in 13 and 18 appearances, respectively.

Despite the struggles faced by the French side, Milan will undoubtedly need to be cautious. The fact that Rennes are almost completely out of the domestic title race might just give them the additional motivation to do well in this cup competition. Thus, the Rossoneri will host Rennes at San Siro on 15th February, before making the trip to Roazhon Park on 22nd February. A full crowd turnout is expected.

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