AC Milan vs Stade Rennais: Preview and Prediction

AC Milan will welcome Stade Rennais to San Siro as they eye a position in the UEFA Europa League Round of 16.

Italian giants AC Milan will be keen to forget their UEFA Champions League campaign when they welcome Stade Rennais to San Siro in the UEFA Europa League knockout playoffs.

Finishing third in a group that contained Newcastle United, Borussia Dortmund, and Paris Saint-Germain is nothing to be ashamed of. However, given the chances they created and the errors that saw them throw away games, Milan have every right to be miffed about themselves.

Having dropped down to the second tier of European football, the Rossoneri could yet achieve continental glory this season. A formidable Stade Rennais side awaits them in the playoffs with a spot in the Round of 16 on the cards.

The Ligue 1 side have emerged as surprise title challengers this season and boast a multi-pronged attack whose numbers are among the best in Europe. On paper, this is bad news for a misfiring Milan attack that appears to lack conviction when under pressure.

Finishing second in their Europa League group behind Villarreal, Rennes enter the playoffs as the seeded side. They are on a roll, having won their last five league games in a row. To put things into perspective, only Manchester City (6) have a longer streak ongoing at the moment in Europe’s big leagues.

However, the French outfit are yet to win a single game on Italian soil. Milan have been rather charitable this season but will hope that they secure an advantage to take for the return leg later this month. Falling at the first stage following the exit from the Champions League is unlikely to be looked upon kindly by the Rossoneri faithful.

While Milan go into the clash as favourites, the game is far from a foregone conclusion. Rennes can be a real pain top deal with on their day and will relish the opportunity to pull off the Italian job. The Hard Tackle looks closer at the encounter ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides.

Team News & Tactics

AC Milan

AC Milan got the better of defending Italian champions Napoli at the weekend. But the win was marred by an injury to Davide Calabria. The Rossoneri star joins a lengthy list of defenders that include Fikayo Tomori, Malick Thiaw, and Pierre Kalulu.

Nigerian winger Samuel Chukwueze is back in training following his AFCON heartbreak but is not expected to start against Rennes. Ismael Bennacer is still far from his best and has not regained full fitness. This could see him make way for Tijjani Reijnders in the starting XI.

Milan are expected to line up in a 4-2-3-1 formation, with several players picking themselves. Mike Maignan should start in goal behind the back four of Alessandro Florenzi, Simon Kjaer, Matteo Gabbia, and Theo Hernandez.

Yacine Adli and Tijjani Reijnders should form the double pivot, behind the attacking trio of Christian Pulisic, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Rafael Leao. Olivier Giroud should get the nod over Luka Jovic and will hope to show his clinical best in the box. The Frenchman won the competition with Chelsea in 2019 and will hope to lead Milan to their first-ever Europa League crown.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Maignan; Florenzi, Kjaer, Gabbia, Hernandez; Reijnders, Adli; Pulisic, Loftus-Cheek, Leao; Giroud

AC Milan vs Stade Rennais: Preview and Prediction.

Stade Rennais

The French side got off to a poor start this season but have pulled themselves together over the last few weeks. While their defence does have the tendency to get run over, the frontline keeps things interesting.

In fact, only Liverpool, Bayer Leverkusen, and AEK Athens have attempted more shots than Rennes in the Europa League this season. Les Rogues et Noir have also scored the most goals in the competition from outside the box. Mike Maignan could be in for a busy night should the visitors turn up in force.

Julien Stephan is putting together a formidable side that still has much room for growth. Fabian Rieder and Enzo Le Fee will miss out and will leave a huge gap in the midfield for the visitors. The 4-4-2 formation appears to be the way forward on the night for Stephan.

Steve Mandanda should start in goal behind the defensive quartet of Guela Doue, Warmed Omari, Arthur Theate and Adrien Truffert. The duo of Desire Doue and Benjamin Bourigeaud should provide the width down the wings. The latter scored the winner against Le Havre at the weekend and will present a threat to Theo Hernandez when he bombs forward, leaving space to be exploited behind him.

Azor Matusiwa and Baptiste Santamaria will act as the haymakers down the middle with Martin Terrier and Arnaud Kalimuendo. Rennes’s front two are a handful and will fancy their chances against a weakened Milan rearguard.

Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Mandanda; Guela Doue, Omari, Theate, Truffert; Bourigeaud, Matusiwa, Santamaria, Desire Doue; Kalimuendo, Terrier

AC Milan vs Stade Rennais: Preview and Prediction.

Key Stats

  • This is the first-ever competitive clash between AC Milan and Stade Rennais.
  • AC Milan last faced off against a French side in European competition in 2005/06 where they played Lyon.
  • A win on the night will see Rennes win consecutive games against Italian opposition for the first-time ever in the UEFA Europa League.
  • AC Milan had the fifth most shots in the UEFA Champions League group stage but scored the second-fewest of any team in the competition this season.
  • A win on the night will see Stade Rennais win three consecutive away games in European football for the first time ever.
  • Neither AC Milan nor Stade Rennais have won the UEFA Europa League in their history.

Player to Watch

Olivier Giroud

Embed from Getty Images

The French veteran has won the competition with Chelsea and boats an impressive return of 11 goals in nine Europa League knockout games. Giroud is Milan’s first-choice striker and makes up for his age with his experience and guile.

At 37 years and 138 days, he could become the fourth oldest goal scorer in the competition’s history should he find the back of the net on the night. Milan created several opportunities in the Champions League but their Achilles heel was the inability to put the ball in the back of the net. Should Giroud have his shooting shoes on the night, the San Siro side could very well put one foot in the final list of teams to qualify for the Round of 16.


AC Milan 1-1 Stade Rennais

While AC Milan are the favourites, Rennes are a plucky side who will cause their opponents serious problems. With the second leg yet to come, both sides are likely to feel each other out in the opening 45 minutes. The game should flow more freely in the second half, with both teams likely to settle for a point.

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