Rennes need a win against Astana to edge out their Kazakhstan opponents for Group K's second qualifying place.
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The qualification scenario in UEFA Europa League Group K is straightforward as Rennes, now under a new coach, entertain Astana on the final matchday with the home side requiring a win to join section winners Dynamo Kyiv in the knockout phase and the visitors needing to avoid defeat.
• Rennes have won two and lost three of their first five matches, with all six points coming at the expense of bottom club Jablonec including a 1-0 win in the Czech Republic last time out. One more victory will enable them to leapfrog Astana and secure second spot in the group.
• Astana have eight points but missed a chance to book their round of 32 ticket by losing 0-1 at home to Dynamo on matchday five – their first defeat in the group. A win or draw in Brittany will secure the Kazakh champions' place in the knockout phase for the second successive year.
• Astana defeated Rennes 2-0 at home on matchday two with second-half strikes from Baktiyar Zainutdinov and Marin Tomasov. It was Astana's first match against a French club and Rennes' first against opposition from Kazakhstan.
• Rennes earned their first ever qualifying exemption for the group stage of a major UEFA club competition by finishing fifth in the 2017/18 Ligue 1.
• They have competed in the UEFA Europa League group stage once before, in 2011/12, after coming through two qualifying rounds. Defeated in all three away fixtures, they drew all three at home – 1-1 against Atlético Madrid and Celtic, 0-0 against Udinese. That was the club's last European campaign before this one.
• Rennes also participated twice in the UEFA Cup group stage, in 2005/06 and 2007/08, but were winless in those too (D2 L6). However, the 1-2 defeat by Dynamo Kyiv in Brittany on matchday three ended a ten-match unbeaten run at home in the UEFA Cup/UEFA Europa League, qualifying included (W5 D5).
• Astana, who claimed a fifth successive domestic league title in October, came through four qualifying ties during the summer – the first three in the UEFA Champions League – to complete a hat-trick of UEFA Europa League group stage participations. After defeating Sutjeska and Midtjylland but then losing to Dinamo Zagreb, they won their UEFA Europa League play-off on penalties – their first European shoot-out – against Cypriot champions APOEL after two 1-0 home wins.
• Having become the first team from Kazakhstan to play in the UEFA Champions League proper in 2015/16, Astana have spent the last three autumns in the UEFA Europa League. Their tally of five points in 2016/17 was not enough to see them through but last season they doubled that total to reach the round of 32, where they lost 6-4 over two legs to Sporting CP.
• Until last season Astana had gone 18 European matches on the road without a win, but in 2017/18 they picked up three. Their last five away fixtures, however, have yielded two defeats and three draws – though they did end a run of three games on the road without a goal when they held Dynamo Kyiv 2-2 in the Ukrainian capital on matchday one.
Links and trivia
• Astana's fifth victory in the Kazakh Premier League – they ended the season last month 15 points clear of runners-up Kairat Almaty – equals the record held jointly by Irtysh Pavlodar and FK Aktobe. No other club had ever previously won the title five years in a row.
• Astana's Ivan Maevski was in the Belarus side that drew 0-0 at home to eventual champions France in their opening 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifier.
• Sabri Lamouchi was dismissed as Rennes coach on 3 December. His place on the bench was taken by reserve team boss Julien Stéphan, whose first two Ligue 1 matches in charge have both resulted in 2-0 wins – away to Lyon and at home to Dijon, prompting the club to give him a deal until the end of the season on 12 December. He is the son of Guy Stéphan, the assistant coach to Didier Deschamps of reigning world champions France.
• Astana announced in October that their Ukrainian head coach Roman Hryhorchuk, who was appointed only in June 2018, had gone on leave for personal reasons, with his assistant Grigoriy Babayan taking over as caretaker – a position the 38-year-old ex-Kairat player has assumed on three occasions previously.