With the saga surrounding FC Sion expulsion from the Europa League ongoing with the possibility of Group I seeing the return of FC Sion, as plans are drawn up by UEFA in case the Court of Arbitration in Sport rules against UEFA. It has been confirmed that Celtic will not be kicked out of the competition, even if FC Sion are re-instated but it means that each club could see a further two games to play against FC Sion. Jason Milligan of FrenchFootballWeekly.com profiles Celtic’s next Europa League opponents.
This week will see Scottish giants Celtic take on French side Stade Rennais in Group I of the Europa League. The match will take place in the 31,127 capacity Stade de la route de Lorient located in the west end of the city of Rennes in northwest France. The club themselves have gained a reputation for producing some solid talent over the years, with ex-Arsenal striker Sylvain Wiltord, Lyon’s Yoann Gourcuff, last season’s Ligue 1 top goalscorer Moussa Sow and current midfield maestro Yann M’Vila all having donned the distinctive red and black attire in recent years.
Manager Frédéric Antonetti has entered his third season in charge of Rennes having joined in June 2009 from fellow Ligue 1 side Nice with the Corsican-born coach extending his contract with the club in April this year until the end of the 2012-13 season. Antonetti is known especially for his fiery touchline antics and passionate approach to the game.
Rennes have started the domestic season in France relatively strongly, with big wins over Sochaux (6-2), newly-promoted Dijon (5-1) and a positive result against former champions Marseille (1-0). Victor Montaño is currently the club’s top goalscorer this season in Ligue 1 having scored four goals in the opening nine fixtures. The Colombian international could cause Celtic problems with his pace and general accuracy in front of goal, especially if Rennes apply their dangerous counter attacks which have seen them snatch a significant draw against big-spending Paris Saint-Germain in week 2 of the season.
With regards to European competition this season, the club have yet to win in the Europa League in spite of some decent performances in the two games they have played. Rennes were unlucky not to have earned at least a draw against Udinese following a good display in Italy. Jirès Kembo-Ekoko especially had plenty of chances to kill off the game for the French side but was unable to do so as the club were defeated 2-1. The club also managed a 1-1 draw against Atlético Madrid. Having taken the lead in the second half, Rennes’ goal was cancelled out by a late Juanfran strike.
Rennes had a solid season last year but a lack of clinical finishing from their attack meant that sixth place was all they could achieve. The club took steps to address this in the summer transfer window, bringing in players like Jonathan Pitroipa from Hamburg, Youssuf Hadji from Nancy to consolidate the play when going forward.
Defensive midfielder Yann M’Vila is certainly one player to look out for. The 21 year-old French international is widely regarded as a top talent with reports in the summer suggesting that Rennes turned down a late bid of around €20m from Premier League side Arsenal, who have admired the player for a while. He has since signed a one-year contract extension with the club which lasts until 2015. M’Vila’s talent and general presence in midfield could cause problems for Celtic if not properly dealt with.
Rennes will be buoyed by the fact that trio Yacine Brahimi, Kader Mangane and Razak Boukari all returned from injury and have reported back to training this week in preparation for the upcoming fixtures against Lorient and Celtic.
It would be foolish to underestimate a side like Rennes given their understated quality and general squad depth. They are a side who are looking to make their mark domestically in France but will also not be giving up on progression in the Europa League too easily. With this in mind, they will be looking at the upcoming game against Celtic as a key fixture in their calendar.