Rennes (AFP)

On their sofa, Rennes saw a direct ticket fall from the sky on Tuesday evening for the group stage of the Champions League, a historic first for the Breton club which will have to strengthen itself to try to look good.

The planets are perfectly aligned for the Bretons, 3rd in Ligue 1, who theoretically had to pass two uncertain preliminary rounds in September.

But according to UEFA regulations, the French club could be exempted from these uncertain confrontations by recovering the place reserved for the winner of the Europa League if the latter had already qualified.

However, the four clubs still in the running in C3 - Inter Milan and Manchester United qualified on Monday evening, Sevilla and Shakhtar Donetsk qualified on Tuesday evening - have already obtained their ticket in their national championship.

These four regulars of the final stages of European cups are therefore the delight of the Bretons, who will play from October 20 the prestigious and lucrative group stage of the C1, alongside Paris SG, Marseille, and possibly Lyon in case of improbable victory of the "Gones" in the final of the Champions League at the end of August.

In the Europa League, the three French tickets returned to Lille and Nice, directly qualified for the group stage, and to Reims, which will have to go through the second qualifying round scheduled for September 17, then through the third a week later, before a barrage scheduled for October 1, all behind closed doors and in a single match.

But at the time of discovering the elite of European football, Rennes has for the moment only presented a mixed record on the continental scene.

His first two forays in 1969 and 1971, the years of his first French Cups, were marked by two eliminations in the first round in the Coupe des Coupes.

- Lots of flops -

A quarter of a century later, return to the European scene with the Intertoto Cup (1996, 1999 and 2001), with several inglorious eliminations but also a final lost against Juventus Turin in the spring of 2000.

Same duality in the UEFA Cup / Europa League, where Rennes certainly reached the round of 16 in 2018-2019 by stumbling over Arsenal after eliminating Betis Sevilla, but where the Rouge et Noir finished dead last in their group in 2005, 2008, 2012 ... and last fall.

However, the club has changed dimension. His triumvirate made up of Nicolas Holveck, new president, Florian Maurice, new debauched technical director of Olympique Lyonnais, and Julien Stéphan, the favorite trainer, now shows his ambitions.

"The transfer window has barely started," Stéphan recalled on Saturday.

If it is likely to attract big names in Brittany, the guarantee of six Champions League matches in the fall could first help the club to keep its good elements, starting with young Eduardo Camavinga, as the press says. actively courted by Real Madrid.

While the world champion Steven Nzonzi, who arrived in January, seems to be taking more and more confidence, his association with the young prodigy is particularly promising in midfield.

In other sectors, the end of the OM soap opera for Mbaye Niang and the arrival of Martin Terrier have already started to strengthen the attack, while the defense remains under construction.

At the end of June, Nicolas Holveck had promised "an ambitious recruitment". He now has the means and the obligation.

© 2020 AFP