Stade Rennes‘s UEFA Europa League hopes are hanging by a thread as they welcome Udinese Calcio on matchday five, needing a win to reignite their campaign and keep their dreams of progression alive.
Rennes lost 2-1 in Italy when the sides met for the first time on matchday one. The visitors took an 18th-minute lead through Youssouf Hadji and dominated for 75 minutes, but goals from Antonio Di Natale (39) and Pablo Armero (83) condemned them to defeat.
Rennes had previously met Serie A opponents in one of the three 1999 UEFA Intertoto Cup finals, losing 2-0 against Juventus in a game played in Cesena before drawing the return fixture 2-2.
Udinese‘s only previous meeting with French opponents came in the 2005/06 UEFA Cup round of 32, where they won 3-0 at home against RC Lens, progressing despite a 1-0 loss in the return fixture.
Rennes have yet to win in four Group I games but can take comfort from their home form; they have not lost in their last nine continental games at the Stade Route de Lorient, recording five wins and four draws since losing 2-1 to PFC Lokomotiv Sofia on 4 October 2007.
Udinese have not won in their last seven games on the road in Europe since a 2-1 victory at FC Spartak Moskva in the 2008/09 UEFA Cup group stage. Since that match on 6 November 2008, the Zebrette have recorded two draws and five defeats on their travels.