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Europa League | Knockout Round Playoffs | 2nd Leg
Feb 22, 2024 at 5.45pm UK
Roazhon Park
Milan logo

3 - 2
AC Milan

Bourigeaud (11', 54' pen., 68' pen.)
Gouiri (69')
FT(HT: 1-1)
Jovic (22'), Leao (58')
Florenzi (53'), Maignan (79')

Preview: Rennes vs. AC Milan - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews Thursday's Europa League clash between Rennes and AC Milan, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.

With one foot in the Europa League's last 16, AC Milan aim to finish the job on Thursday, when they take a three-goal lead to Rennes.

Milan cruised to victory in the first leg of their knockout-round playoff tie, leaving Les Rennais with a mountain to climb back at Roazhon Park.

Match preview

AC Milan's Ruben Loftus-Cheek celebrates scoring their third goal with teammates on September 27, 2023© Reuters

After seizing control of last week's contest through a pair of Ruben Loftus-Cheek headers, which were followed by Rafael Leao's strike on 53 minutes, Milan went on to wrap up a comfortable 3-0 victory at San Siro that sees them travel to France as hot favourites to progress.

Loftus-Cheek became the first Rossoneri player to score twice in a European knockout game for some 17 years, as their return to continental competition after exiting the Champions League went perfectly to plan.

Finishing third in a tough group, behind Borussia Dortmund and Paris Saint-Germain, saw the Italian giants drop down into the Europa League playoffs, but beating Rennes comprehensively puts them on track towards a first-ever triumph in UEFA's second-tier tournament.

Last year's wins against Tottenham Hotspur and Napoli mean Milan have gone through to the next round 39 times from 45 previous European ties after winning at home in the first leg, so precedent is clearly on their side.

However, Stefano Pioli's much-changed team suffered a setback in Serie A last weekend, souring their superb start to 2024: Luka Jovic was sent off for reacting to provocation in an eventful 4-2 loss at nearby Monza, in which the home side scored twice during the final few minutes.

Still within two points of second-placed Juventus in the table, city rivals Inter Milan are 11 clear of the Rossoneri, whose faint Scudetto hopes may already have ended. Out of the Coppa Italia, too, the Europa League is surely their last chance of claiming silverware this season.

Rennes coach Julien Stephan on February 15, 2024© Reuters

After coming through Group F in the autumn, before embarking on last week's trip to Italy in their best form of the season, Rennes were certainly expecting to fare better at San Siro.

Les Rouge et Noirs now have their work cut out if they are going to progress to the last 16, and they may well be rue finishing second to Villarreal in the group phase, which left them such a challenging playoff contest to contend with.

Following only a second failure to score in 17 Europa League fixtures, Rennes picked themselves up and continued their fine domestic form at the weekend, when Julien Stephan's side were back among the goals in a 3-1 win over Clermont that saw Martin Terrier bag a second-half brace.

As well as slaying Sochaux to book a spot in the Coupe de France quarter-finals, Les Rennais have begun a major push for European qualification since Stephan's arrival as head coach, following Bruno Genesio's departure.

He has helped the Breton club move to within two points of sixth-placed Lens in Ligue 1, winning no fewer than 11 of his 15 games in charge.

French league leaders PSG are up next in domestic competition, but pulling off a miraculous fightback to stun Milan must be Stephan's next target.

Rennes Europa League form:

Rennes form (all competitions):

AC Milan Europa League form:

AC Milan form (all competitions):

Team News

AC Milan coach Stefano Pioli on February 11, 2024© Reuters

After making six changes on Sunday without much success, Milan boss Stefano Pioli is set to name a more familiar XI at Roazhon Park than that which was beaten by Monza.

Rafael Leao appeared as a substitute at the weekend, due to a minor calf problem, while Christian Pulisic and Olivier Giroud both scored after arriving from the bench.

The latter has been directly involved in 11 goals from 10 Europa League knockout-stage appearances and could start in his homeland; Luka Jovic is facing a Serie A suspension for violent conduct but will be available should 37-year-old Giroud be rested.

Pierre Kalulu, Fikayo Tomori and captain Davide Calabria are not yet back from injury, but fellow defender Malick Thiaw made his first start for several weeks against Monza - albeit with calamitous results.

Meanwhile, Rennes also made a number of changes to their lineup in the league, but Benjamin Bourigeaud and Desire Doue are among several players set to return.

Midfield duo Enzo Le Fee and Fabian Rieder will be Julien Stephan's most notable absentees; Arnaud Kalimuendo missed out against Clermont but should be back in action on Thursday.

Rennes possible starting lineup:
Mandanda; G. Doue, Omari, Theate, Truffert; Bourigeaud, Matusiwa, Santamaria, D. Doue; Kalimuendo, Terrier

AC Milan possible starting lineup:
Maignan; Florenzi, Gabbia, Kjaer, Hernandez; Bennacer, Reijnders; Pulisic, Loftus-Cheek, Leao; Jovic

SM words green background

We say: Rennes 2-1 AC Milan (AC Milan win 4-2 on aggregate)

Having averaged over two goals per game this year, Milan are likely to score again - and that should put their place in the last 16 beyond doubt. Nonetheless, losing in Italy was the only defeat Rennes have suffered since December, so the hosts are capable of a consolation win on the night.

For data analysis of the most likely results, scorelines and more for this match please click here.

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Group A

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4Backa Topola60151

Group B

4AEK Athens61144

Group C

QSparta Prague631210
4Aris Limassol61144

Group D

QSporting Lisbon632111
3Sturm Graz61144

Group E

3Union SG62228

Group F

3M. Haifa61235

Group G

QSlavia Prague650115
4Sheriff Tiraspol60151

Group H

QB. Leverkusen660018

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