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Udinese set to relight European aspirations

Udinese Calcio must put failure to qualify for the UEFA Champions League behind them as they kick off their UEFA Europa League Group I campaign at home to French side Stade Rennais FC.

Antonio Di Natale scored in the UEFA Champions League play-off defeat by Arsenal
Antonio Di Natale scored in the UEFA Champions League play-off defeat by Arsenal ©Getty Images

Eliminated from the UEFA Champions League play-offs by Arsenal FC, Udinese Calcio kick off their UEFA Europa League Group I campaign at home against French side Stade Rennais FC.

Previous meetings 
• The sides are meeting for the first time in Europe.

• Udinese's only 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 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.

Match background
• A 2-1 loss to Arsenal FC in the UEFA Champions League play-offs ended a five-game unbeaten home run for Udinese; four wins and a draw. However, they have yet to lose at home in the UEFA Cup or UEFA Europa League group stage, winning both of their Stadio Friuli fixtures in their maiden campaign in 2008/09.

• Rennes have won both of their European away games this season to bring an end to a five-game losing streak on the road in UEFA competition stretching back to 2007, during which they scored just once.

• Rennes played in the UEFA Cup group stage in 2005/06 and 2007/08, finishing bottom of their section both times. They are yet to win a group stage game, with their record to date reading W0 D2 L6.

Team facts
• Udinese boast French-born talent in the form of Morocco defender Mehdi Benatia and newly signed midfielder Abdoulwhaid Sissoko. Benatia has played against Rennes' Benoît Costil on 29 January 2010, with Costil's CS Sedan-Ardennes side winning 3-0 at Benatia's Clermont Foot Auvergne. Sissoko also met Costil last season in Ligue 2, with ES Troyes AC. Sissoko is not in Udinese's squad for the group stage.

• Udinese boss Francesco Guidolin spent the bulk of his playing career with Hellas-Verona FC. His coaching career included a stint in France as AS Monaco FC boss in 2005/06, since when he has been in charge of US Città di Palermo and Parma FC, taking over for a second spell at Udinese in 2010.

• Udinese are one of five clubs Guidolin has led in Europe along with Vicenza Calcio, Bologna FC, Monaco and Palermo. He successfully guided Monaco through the 2005/06 UEFA Cup group stage but missed the cut with Palermo the following season.

• Once a player for SC Bastia in his native Corsica, Rennes coach Frédéric Antonetti took charge of Bastia, AS Saint-Étienne and OGC Nice before being handed his current job in 2009. He has not featured in Europe since leading Bastia from the UEFA Intertoto Cup to the second round of the UEFA Cup in 1997/98.