UEL preview: AC Milan vs. Rennes – Team news, opposition insight, stats and more

By Oliver Fisher -

AC Milan are back in European action on Thursday night as they welcome French side Stade Rennais to San Siro for the first leg of their Europa League play-off round tie.

Milan come into the game having ground out a 1-0 victory against a struggling Napoli side at the weekend, and the Rennes team that they will face have been in excellent form since the moment the draw was made.

In his pre-match press conference, Stefano Pioli talked about the threat of facing a side like the Rouge et Noir but insisted his side have prepared well for the game.

Game date: Thursday, February 15
Kick-off time: 21:00 (CET)
Venue: San Siro
Referee: Nikola Dabanović (VAR: Kajtazovic)

Team news 

In the leadup to the game against Napoli, it was reported that Pioli would be taking things one game at a time, and this showed as he named a full-strength eleven against the Neapolitan outfit on Sunday. The only casualty from that game is believed to be Davide Calabia, who sustained an abductor injury.

There were doubts about whether Simon Kjaer would be available, but it seems as though he will be called up for the game after training with the squad in Thursday morning’s session at Milanello.

With the importance of this game, Pioli will again be expected to field a full-strength team, to go into the second leg with the best chance of an advantage. As such, many of the players that started the game against Napoli will start again.

The defence will be made up of Mike Maignan, Alessandro Florezni – who will replace the injured captain, Matteo Gabbia, Simon Kjaer and Theo Hernandez, who will captain the side in place of Calabria.

The 58-year-old will start the game aggressively, opting to use a 4-2-3-1 formation, as opposed to the more passive 4-3-3. As a result, Tijjani Reijnders, who was suspended for Sunday’s game will come into the midfield and will partner Yunus Musah, giving Ismael Bennacer and Yacine Adli chances to rest.

With the more attacking mindset, Ruben Loftus-Cheek will, again, start in the ’10’ position, as Milan fans have become accustomed to. Either side of him will be Christian Pulisic, and Rafael Leao, with the game being deemed as too soon for Samuel Chukwueze. Olivier Giroud will lead the line for the Diavolo.

Probable Milan XI (4-2-3-1): Maignan; Florenzi, Gabbia, Kjaer, Theo Hernandez; Reijnders, Musah; Pulisic, Loftus-Cheek, Leao; Giroud

The opponents

Milan will need to emerge victorious over the two legs to secure qualification for the last 16 of the competition, but there was a sigh of relief given the chances of facing Marseille, Sporting CP or even a long trip to Qarabag. However, things have certainly changed.

Last season, Rennes were one of the most entertaining sides to watch in Ligue 1 as they finished fourth in the table with 21 wins in their 38 games but only five draws. They scored 69 goals, letting in just 39.

A very busy summer followed as a number of high profile players left, starting with the likes of Jeremy Doku, Lesley Ugochukwu and Lovro Maker who generated a combined €112.5m in revenue.

Serhou Guirassy went to Stuttgart for €9m where he has since exploded, Loic Bade joined Sevilla for €12m and Andy Diouf went to Basel for €5.5m, leaving the core of the squad needing to be rebuilt.

The money was mainly spent on Ludovic Blas who cost €15m, Enzo Le Fee who was a €20m signing from Lorient and then Fabian Rieder who arrived from BSC Young Boys for €15m.

At the time of the draw they were certainly finding last season tough to follow up on as they were in 13th place on 16 points after 16 matches played. They finished second in their Europa League group behind Villarreal, trailing them by a point.

The team changed coaches in November, hiring Julien Stéphan, and they have been perfect so far in 2024 having won every game. The list includes victories in the French Cup against Guingamp, Marseille and Sochaux, plus league wins over OGC Nice, Lyon, Montpellier and Le Havre.

Rennes became the first team to qualify for the quarter-finals of the cup thanks to the resounding 6-1 win inflicted on Souchaux, although they are fourth in Ligue 3, the French third division.

In terms of team news heading into the game, the two big absences are in the playmaker department with the summer signings Le Fee and Rieder out with metatarsal and hamstring issues respectively.

Those injuries have forced a change in shape to more of a direct 4-4-2 system recently with Terrier and Kalimuendo – the top scorer across all competitions – leading the line.

Bourigeaud and Desire Doue have been used as wide midfielders with Matusiwa and Santamaria the midfield pairing. Guela Doue and Truffert should be the full-backs, with Seidu and Theatre the centre-backs.

Probable Rennes XI (4-2-3-1): Mandanda; G. Doue, Seidu, Theate, Truffert; Bourigeaud, Matusiwa, Santamaria, D. Doue; Kalimuendo, Terrier.

Head to head

Milan have never played Stade Rennais in their history but they have played 32 times against opponents from France across all competitions.

Of those 32 games 14 were wins which is less than half, while eight were draws and 10 were therefore defeats.

The most recent games against Ligue 1 opposition came this season against Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League.

A heavy 3-0 defeat in the French capital was followed by a comeback win at San Siro in the reverse fixture, with Rafael Leao and Olivier Giroud scoring.

Match facts…

➤ Milan and Rennes will meet for the first time in a competitive fixture, with Milan progressing through four of their last five knockout ties against French opposition in major European competition, the most recent of which saw Milan eliminate Lyon at the quarter-final stage of the 2005-06 UEFA Champions League.

➤ This will be Rennes’s fifth game against an Italian opponent in the UEFA Europa League, after two group-stage meetings with Udinese in the 2011-12 season (D1 L1) and then with Lazio in the 2019-20 campaign (W1/D1), with Rennes winning 2-0 at home in the most recent of those.

➤ Only Red Bull Salzburg (4) scored fewer goals than Milan (5) in the 2023-24 UEFA Champions League group stage, despite only four teams having more shots than the Rossoneri (95).

➤ Milan underperformed their expected-goals tally by a larger margin (-4.9) than any other team in the UEFA Champions League group stage.

➤ After winning away to both Panathinaikos on MD3 and then to Maccabi Haifa on MD5 of the 2023-24 Europa League group stage, Rennes could now win three consecutive away games in major European competition for the very first time.

➤ Olivier Giroud has been directly involved in 11 goals in 9 Europa League knockout stage appearances (7 goals, 4 assists).

➤ The Frenchman (37y, 138d) could become the fourth-oldest player to score in the knockout stages of the competition after Jorge Molina (38y, 323d), Walter Samuel (37y, 332d) and Miroslav Klose (37y, 261s).

Ones to watch

Leao and Giroud are the ones who will always be expected to produce for Milan, but the pressure is ramping up on Pulisic to return to contributing after a bit of a subdued recent period.

Loftus-Cheek’s role will once again be key in providing some extra muscle in attack but also disrupting the opposition in build-up, then Theo will look to continue his good run as will Gabbia at the back.

Kalimuendo and Bourigeaud have been by far and away the main attacking threats for Rennes this season. The former has 10 goals across all competitions, while the latter is on six goals two assists in the league.

Terrier hasn’t quite been his usual prolific self but has five goals, while down the spine both Santamaria and Theate have been linked with moves to Milan in the past and would love to showcase their abilities at San Siro.


This is a very tricky game for Milan to approach, because they are not only facing a side who are in red hot form, but also one that can perhaps afford to come for a draw and leave the tie nicely poised for the home second leg. Nonetheless, we just about tip a win.

Milan 2-1 Rennes


Tags AC Milan Milan Rennes


  1. Benercer and rejnder should control the attacking midfield while Loftus cheek should play the defensive midfield is high time Pioli should wake up if he truly ready to coach Acmilan

  2. At least Benna should play instead of Musah. When Benna has played. Our defence has been so much better. Like against Napoli. When he’s out, the holes in midfield are as open as a 7/11.

Comments are closed

Serie A Standings

Live football scores . Current table, fixtures & results.