route, stadium, squad… Three questions on Brest’s qualification for the Champions League

Winners in Toulouse on Sunday, the Finisterians ensured their participation in the group stage of the 2024-2025 Champions League. A first in the history of Stade Brestois.

France Télévisions – Sports Editorial


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Brest players celebrate their qualification for the Champions League, after their victory in Toulouse, May 19, 2024. (VALENTINE CHAPUIS / AFP)

The end of an incredible season. Destined to fight for maintenance, Stade Brestois played a nasty trick on the big guys in the French championship by stealing one of the three most coveted seats, directly qualifying for the Champions League. A ticket validated, Sunday May 19 at the end of the evening, thanks to a 3-0 victory in Toulouse combined with a draw in stoppage time (2-2) of Lille against Nice. While he has never experienced the European Cup, the SB29 will discover the C1 in September, and will represent France alongside PSG and Monaco.

How Brest fought their way into the Champions League?

15th budget in Ligue 1 and with no better result than an eighth place in the elite in 1987, the Breton club broke all its records this season. An exercise marked by courage and combativeness from the first day with a snatched 3-2 victory against Lens, after being down 2-0.

Well ahead in the ranking of duels won (2,026, at least 200 more than any other team), and notably led by Steve Mounié in the air (138 aerial duels won, the record this season) and Pierre Lees-Melou on the ground (67 successful tackles, highest total in Ligue 1), Brest has made intensity its credo to make its opponents crack.“We are a real team where everyone fights for each other, with a strong collective. It’s the most difficult to create”rejoiced Eric Roy, the coach, after the last match of the season, Sunday.

An intensity that did not rhyme with a defensive and restrictive game plan. Eric Roy’s players, who arrived for a successful rescue mission at the end of the previous season, were the players in some of the most spectacular matches of the season, such as their 4-3 defeat in Lyon or their 5-4 victory in Rennes two weeks later. They finished with the third best attack in the championship (53 goals) and the third best defense (34 goals conceded), making their podium snatched in the last minutes of the season even more legitimate.

“It is well deserved, given our season, to be able to qualify directly.”

Eric Roy

at a press conference after Toulouse-Brest

The Finisterians nevertheless benefit from the new formula of the Champions League offering three directly qualifying places for the group stage. They will therefore not have to go through the play-offs, which are not very successful for French clubs (no qualification during the last four participations of French clubs) and which Lille will have to play in August. The Bretons will wait until September, warm in hat 4.

In which stadium will SB29 be able to host the competition?

This is the main question that agitated the end of the Brest season. Not envisaged at the start of the year, the prospect of playing in a European Cup gradually emerged over the course of the meetings, particularly at the beginning of March when the Brestois became solid runners-up to PSG. Already no longer up to the standards of the Professional Football League (LFP), the Francis-Le Blé stadium also does not meet the criteria of UEFA which announced that the venue could not host continental competition. The historic season may therefore have arrived too early for the Bretons who are currently building a new stadium for 2026.

Several solutions were considered by the managers of Stade Brestois (Rennes or Nantes) to find stadiums that have hosted European matches in recent years. They nevertheless seem to have set their sights on Guingamp, a little over an hour’s drive from their usual stadium. “A priori, it will be Roudourou”, confided the mayor of Brest François Cuillandre to the microphone of France Bleu Breizh Izel.

What can the Bretons hope for in C1?

Unlike the French surprises in the Champions League in recent years such as Lens in 2023-2024 (3rd in its group with two wins, two draws and two defeats), Montpellier in 2012-2013 (last in its group with two draws and four defeats) or Auxerre in 2010-2011 (last in its group with one victory and five defeats), Brest should not only face superior teams on paper. The Bretons benefit, once again, from the new formula of the Champions League where each team, regardless of their hat, faces two opponents from each hat. Stade Brestois could thus find itself facing Sturm Graz, Bologna, Girona or clubs from qualifying.

The other factor will be the Stade Brestois squad for next season. Already desired in the offseason, Pierre Lees-Melou will be courted again during the summer. The Champions League could be an argument to make him stay, like Lilian Brassier, Bradley Locko, Romain Del Castillo and other executives. Recruitment and construction of a larger squad to be effective in the Champions League as in Ligue 1 will also be essential criteria for the ability or otherwise of the Bretons to repeat their exploits.

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