The five key battles that could win or lose the game for Milan against Rennes

By Oliver Fisher -

AC Milan make the trip to face Stade Rennais at Roazhon Park this evening with a three-goal lead from the first leg in their back pocket, but they must see out the job.

The game back at San Siro was a rather comfortable one for Milan in the end as Ruben Loftus-Cheek (two goals) and Rafael Leao scored in a 3-0 win. However, the 4-2 loss to Monza on Sunday coupled with Rennes winning 3-1 at home has reopened some doubts.

There will be a number of key battles across the park that Milan will hope to get the better of again, starting at the back where Martin Terrier faces the experienced Simon Kjaer who will come back in for Malick Thiaw.

The Dane will look to send a message to Stefano Pioli that he deserves to keep his starting spot despite the injury returns, especially after Thiaw’s disaster in Monza, but Terrier has admitted Rennes are fired up and want to fluster Milan. He also scored twice at the weekend.

At the other end, Luka Jovic simply must put things right after his silly red card at the weekend and he will line up against Arthur Theate, a defender who knows Italian opposition well having played at Bologna.

Jovic let his temper get the better of him at the U-Power Stadium in a physical duel with Armando Izzo and his sending off means he will miss the next two league games. A goal tonight to seal progress would go some way towards making up for it.

Rennes’ best player from the first leg was probable Desire Doue, the lively teenage winer who caused a lot of problems with his pace and his movement down Milan’s right side, where Alessandro Florenzi will operate tonight.

Julien Stephan’s game plan with the 4-4-2 is often to work the ball wide and then hope for quality deliveries into the two strikers, with one or two runners from midfield ready to capitalise on any loose balls. Milan’s defence has been all over the place recently, so another clean sheet would be welcome.

In midfield, Rennes will still be without Enzo Le Fee meaning it is Baptiste Santamaria who will be in the control room again. The Frenchman was reportedly a Milan target at one point, but in the first leg the Ligue 1 side often saw their double pivot overrun.

Santamaria’s opponent should be Yunus Musah, who is struggling to get a run of starts at the moment but seems to impress when he does play. His energy in the first leg was crucial and the Rossoneri really need to find some balance.

Finally, we come to Warmed Omari‘s battle with Rafael Leao. While it might seem more obvious that Leao play wide right and take on Guéla Doué, the Portuguese forward will probably have to stay close to Jovic who sometimes can struggle as a lone striker.

Not only that, but we know how Leao likes to cut inside on his right foot to try and create danger, so getting the better of his 23-year-old French opponent – especially in the chances that Milan will almost certainly get in transition – is vital.


Tags AC Milan Rennes Milan


  1. People should also watch Pulisic’s defensive work, if the first leg is any indication. Due to Doue’s speed, and Florenzi’s lack thereof, Pulisic played more time on the defensive half of the field than in the attack.

    Perhaps if Musah can “lean right” defensively, and provide the cover for Florenzi, Pulisic can play like an actual winger, and not a “right defensive midfielder.”

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