Round of 16
After a historic season, crowned with a victory in the French Cup, Stade Rennais began the 2019/2020 season after hectic transfer window. Seven key players left the club : Koubek, Zeffane, Bensebaïni, Mexer, André, Sarr and Ben Arfa, along with the emblematic Romain Danzé, who retired from professional football. The arrivals of Mendy, Morel, Gnagnon, Martin, Raphinha and Tait should help the club to confirm its rising reputation, along with rising stars already at the club, such as Camavinga and Gboho. Despite a narrow defeat (2-1) by Paris in the Champions Trophy, the club got off to a roaring start in the league, with three straight wins, one of which was against the same Paris Saint Germain. By the time that their Europa League campaign got underway, things were much less straightforward in the Ligue 1 and hope quickly evaporated in Europe, despite a memorable display against Cluj (0-1) whilst playing 9 v 11. That defeat, though, did act as a kickstart to Rennes’ season. Numerous victories achieved in the dying minutes of matches (notably against Toulouse, Saint-Etienne and Lyon) enabled Julien Stéphan’s side to spend Christmas in the top three, after a prestigious victory against Lazio in the Europa League, and an exit in the last 16 of the League Cup. The month of January was marked by the arrival of World Cup Winner Steven Nzonzi. This 3rd place would remain in Rennes hands, mainly thanks to new last-gasp wins against Nantes and Nïmes. After the evening of the 28th matchday, and a huge win against Montpellier (5-0), the authorities called a halt to the league due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Ligue 1 was frozen at that point, and on the 30th April, the positions of the teams were made definitive, sending Stade Rennais into the Champions’ League for the first time in the club’s history, as well as a first-ever top-3 finish in Ligue 1. A performance which soon enabled the initial disappointment of losing the French Cup Semi-Final at St Etienne, just before the break, to be forgotten.