Thursday’s Europa League clash in Rennes will be a special occasion for Petr Cech.
Our 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.
Cech was a standout performer during his time in northwest France and couldn’t hide his excitement about returning to his former side when the last-16 draw was made last month.
“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 the matchday programme. “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.
“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.
“I remember arriving at Rennes in the final week of pre-season,” added Cech. “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.
“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.
“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’.
“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.”
You can read the full interview with Petr in next week’s matchday programme
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