The Gunners travel to Stade Rennais to play their first leg of Round of 16 of the UEFA Europa League.
Premier League outfit Arsenal will host Ligue 1’s Stade Rennais F.C. on Thursday in their Round of 16 tie in the UEFA Europa League. The Gunners will look to take home advantage to strengthen their position in this round. One of the eldest players of their camp, Petr Cech rose to stardom after playing nearly 70 games for Rennais.
The Czech goalkeeper joined the Ligue 1 side as a teenager in 2002, and spent two seasons with them before earning a move to the Premier League.
The former Chelsea keeper was ecstatic when the gunners were drawn with Rennais. “We were in for training so we actually finished the session and then watched the draw together in the treatment room,” the 36-year-old told Arsenal.com
“Matteo and Auba also wanted to go to Rennes as well, and when the ball came out we were all jumping around because we were so excited to go there,” he said.
He continued, “They were my first choice in the draw, not because it’s not going to be a difficult tie, but because of the significance in my career. For me to go there after 16 years, especially in the year where I announced my retirement from football, is special.”
He tells about his time with the club, “I remember arriving at Rennes in the final week of pre-season.”
“On the day I arrived, the fitness coach left because he didn’t agree with how their pre-season was going. In the end, we weren’t fit or ready to compete, so we were losing games. We swapped managers after seven or eight games, and then we started a mini pre-season again where we would pick up points,” he said.
“In our last three games, we were going to the teams where we had to literally not lose. I saved a penalty in Le Havre and we would’ve gone down if I didn’t. Then we managed to score to win there, so when we went into the last game at home, we only needed to beat Montpellier to stay up,” Petr added.
“Before the game, I’d injured myself in training and completely tore my groin, but I said to the doctor, ‘I don’t care how many times you pinch me or inject me, if we go down I want to be on the pitch’.
Petr added, “I played the game in the end with only one leg pretty much, but we won 3-1 and stayed up. It was a tough first season but I won Player of the Season and for me personally everything went well. The following season, we changed the manager and then the club just kept getting better and better and better. I had some fantastic memories in Rennes and can’t wait to go back.”
Arsenal might have to win the Europa League to book a place in the UEFA Champions League next season as they sit at the fifth position in the Premier League, just a point behind Manchester United.