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

By Oliver Fisher -

AC Milan will hope to build off the work they did in the first leg against Stade Rennais and take care of business away from home in the second leg of their Europa League play-off round tie.

Rennes arrived at San Siro in excellent form domestically but in truth the contest was over after less than an hour as a Ruben Loftus-Cheek brace and a stunning goal from Rafael Leao put Milan firmly in command of the tie.

The Rossoneri still have a job to do in the return fixture though because an early goal for the Ligue 1 side would certainly throw things open, and after the loss to Monza at the weekend some doubts may just creep in.

Game date: Thursday, February 22
Kick-off time: 18:45 (CET)
Venue: Roazhon Park
Referee: João Pinheiro (VAR: Martins)

Team news 

As mentioned, Milan need to respond after losing 4-2 at the weekend against Monza and now the issue of rotating the team has become a very topical issue again, especially with Atalanta coming to San Siro on Sunday.

Starting with the unavailable players, Stefano Pioli will not be able to count on Pierre Kalulu or Fikayo Tomori who are back training with the rest of the squad but were not named in the squad list for this round, nor was Mattia Caldara.

Tommaso Pobega and Davide Calabria remain out with muscle problems, while Jan-Carlo Simic and Alex Jimenez are not in the squad list either while they do not meet the List B requirements having arrived too recently.

According to the latest reports, the three-goal advantage coupled with the important game on Sunday means that Pioli will make some tweaks to the line-up rather then radical changes.

For this reason, ahead of Mike Maignan it is Simon Kjaer that will return to being paired with Matteo Gabbia because against Monza Malick Thiaw showed that he is not yet 100%. Alessandro Florenzi and Theo Hernandez will remain the full-backs.

In midfield there will be the return of Tijjani Reijnders from the first minute but he will take the role of attacking midfielder, while Yunus Musah comes back in and will play a deeper role alongside Ismael Bennacer who has passed a late fitness test.

In attack, Samuel Chukwueze will be on the right after Pioli’s pep talk with Rafael Leao on the left, all supporting the lone striker Luka Jovic who will start given that he is suspended for two matches in the league, meaning he will be forced to miss both the matches against Atalanta and Lazio.

UPDATE: Pulisic is now expected to start over Chukwueze.

Probable Milan XI (4-2-3-1): Maignan; Florenzi, Kjaer, Gabbia, Theo Hernandez; Bennacer, Musah; Pulisic, Reijnders, Leao; Jovic.

The opponents

We outlined the large amount of summer business that Stade Rennais did over the summer during our preview of the first leg as they looked to build on an impressive fourth-placed finish last season.

At the time of the draw they were certainly finding that to follow up on as they were in 13th place on 16 points after 16 matches played, hovering just above the relegation zone after changing head coaches.

However, under Julien Stéphan they have been building a head of steam and have won all but one of their nine games in 2024 (that being the first leg against Milan), including league victories against OGC Nice, Lyon, Montpellier and Le Havre.

The most recent victory was on Sunday as Rennes beat Clermont Foot at home. Warmed Omari opened the scoring and Martin Terrier doubled the advantage before netting a second to quickly respond to the away side halving the deficit, with 3-1 the full-time score.

Despite their head coach Stephan admitting it will be hard to overturn the deficit, Rennes also made a number of changes to their line-up at the weekend with Benjamin Bourigeaud and Desire Doue resting, but they are expected to return.

The two summer midfield signings Enzo Le Fee and Fabian Rieder will be the biggest absences for the Brittany-based club, and striker Arnaud Kalimuendo faced a late fitness test after he missed out against Clermont.

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

Head to head

Before the first leg, Milan had never played Stade Rennais in their history but they had played 32 times against opponents from France across all competitions, winning 14 of them with eight draws and 10 defeats.

The most recent game that Milan played away from home against Ligue 1 opposition came this season against Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League, with a dismal 3-0 defeat in the French capital being the outcome.

Match facts…

➤ Rennes have won the second leg in six of their last seven UEFA competition two-legged ties.

➤ Rennes are unbeaten in all three home UEFA competition matches against teams from Italy, most recently against Lazio in the 2019-20 Europa League group stage when they won 2-0.

➤ Rennes have won six of their last eight matches in all competitions (D1 L1).

➤ Milan have lost only two of their last nine UEFA competition matches against French teams (W5 D2).

➤ Milan have won the second leg away from home in only one of their last 11 UEFA competition two-legged ties (D3 L7).

➤ Milan have won all four UEFA competition ties after a 3-0 home first-leg victory, although the most recent came against PAOK in the 1973-74 European Cup Winners’ Cup quarter-finals (2-2 away).

➤  The only occasion they have not progressed in a tie after leading by three goals or more after the home first leg – from 17 ties – was in the 2003/04 Champions League quarter-finals against Deportivo La Coruña, when their 4-1 first-leg lead was overturned by a 4-0 defeat in Spain.

➤ Milan have scored two or more goals in each of their last nine away matches in all competitions.

Ones to watch

Given that Pioli has seemingly decided to go with an intriguing team for the game, there will be pressure on Chukwueze to put his bad night against Monza behind him and continue his good European form, while Jovic must make amends as well after his red card.

Milan seemingly can’t do without Reijnders in midfield so he will play an important role, and Kjaer must put in a good showing to prove he deserves to keep a starting spot following Thiaw’s disaster over the weekend.

As highlighted before the first leg, Kalimuendo and Bourigeaud have been the two stand-out players going forward for Rennes this season. The former has 10 goals across all competitions, while the latter is on seven goals and five assists.

Terrier seems to have got himself back into form with his brace on Sunday, then Matusiwa and Theate will hope for better nights than they had in the first leg down the spine of the team.


Predicting both seems to score seems like a safe bet for Milan games at the moment, and as strange as it sounds after a 3-0 first leg the first goal in the reverse game is huge. If it goes to Rennes they will begin to believe, if it goes to the away side it will kill the atmosphere.

Rennes 2-1 Milan (2-4 agg)


Tags AC Milan Rennes Milan

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