French outfit Rennes are one of four clubs making their Champions League group stage debut this week, and they clash with fellow first-timers Krasnodar of Russia in Tuesday's opening round on CBS All Access (3 p.m. ET).
The Red and Blacks represent the capital of western France's Brittany region and despite numerous Europa League outings and a 2008 Intertoto Cup triumph, they have never featured in the UCL. Rennes' main silverware is three French Cup titles -- the third came in 2019's penalty win over Paris Saint-Germain -- which adds to this week's dreamlike scenario for James Lea Siliki and his teammates.
"Honestly, I am dreaming," the midfielder told CBS Sports in an interview. "The best teams and the best players in the best competition! I cannot wait to hear the UCL anthem.
"When you are a professional player you expect to step up to the next level throughout your career. This is one of those moments -- the biggest stage."
Qualification was questioned after Ligue 1's 2019-20 season was prematurely ended due to the COVID-19 outbreak with Rennes in third, yet Lea Siliki insists the opportunity has been hard earned.
"Football history is full of beautiful stories," he said. "A good example is Denmark in 1992. They were not due to play at the European Championship, yet they went on and won it.
"We are not here to just enjoy ourselves and observe. We are part of it, and we deserve that."
Rennes currently sit third in the Ligue 1 table -- level on points with second-placed PSG -- after an unexpected 1-1 draw away at basement boys Dijon over the weekend.
"Right now, we are near the top of the Ligue 1 table. Last year was not by accident," Lea Siliki said. "We have a strong team. Now that we are here, let's make things happen."
The 24-year-old, a tough tackling creative midfielder who graduated from Rennes' youth academy after nearly decade with PSG as a youngster, knows how much this UCL debut against Krasnodar means to the club's loyal supporters.
"Everyone remembers their first time," he said. "This means a lot to the Red and Black family. We have dreamed of this and now we are here."
Rennes celebrated their automatic qualification for this season's group stage via the coefficient impact of last campaign's Europa League latter stages by getting a DJ to play the UCL anthem in an empty Roazhon Park.
Unfortunately for nearby neighbours, the song blasted out at full volume in the early hours of one morning and woke the locals -- the music has since become something of a rallying cry for fans.
Lea Siliki is leading the charge, and Rennes have since had classical musicians playing the tune inside the stadium and are asking supporters to play the music from their windows ahead of kick-off against Krasnodar.
[@ChampionsLeague]— Stade Rennais F.C. (@staderennais) October 20, 2020
𝗙𝗮𝗶𝘁𝗲𝘀 𝗿𝗲́𝘀𝗼𝗻𝗻𝗲𝗿 𝗹𝗮 𝗺𝘂𝘀𝗶𝗾𝘂𝗲 𝘀𝗮𝗰𝗿𝗲́𝗲 !
🔊 Supporters, depuis vos fenêtres ou dans les rues, ce soir à 20h35, nous comptons sur 𝒗𝒐𝒖𝒔 pour faire résonner la musique de l'#UCL dans toute la ville et bien au-delà ! pic.twitter.com/JDm8zvHeko
"I am sad for the fans as they deserved it (a bouncing Roazhon Park UCL debut crowd)," he said. "Maybe they can be back by the time we reach the semi-final!"
Rennes are in Group E with former winners Chelsea and Europa League champions Sevilla, as well as Krasnodar, which means Lea Siliki will face former teammates Joris Gnagnon and Edouard Mendy.
"I will come up against some friends when we play Sevilla and Chelsea," he said. "Joris and Edouard -- I cannot wait to play against them. Both are at clubs with interesting projects that play nice football.
"If I had to pick one match, it would be Chelsea. They are a huge club and a former Champions League winner."
Lea Siliki also feels that it is time for Rennes to show that they have learned from their recent forays in the Europa League, notably a 2018-19 round of 16 appearance when they eliminated Real Betis 6-4 on aggregate.
"We grew up and now it is time to see if we have been able to learn from the past," he said. "This summer's business is a good signal for everybody: fans, players and opponents. It means we are ambitious and continuing to grow as a club."
Part of Rennes' exciting project is 17-year-old Eduardo Camavinga, who recently became the France's youngest goal scorer for more than a century, and Lea Siliki feels that he is witnessing a special story unfolding.
"Eduardo is a phenomenon," he said. "Everybody can see that he has something special. He is a young player who will discover the Champions League for the first time. He is the type of player that you can sense will do something special.
"As a teammate, Eduardo is an amazing kid. His feet are firmly on the ground. He is fresh, simple and has exactly the sort of energy you would expect of such a youngster. He is full of joy and laughter -- he should stay that way."
Led by 40-year-old Julien Stephan on the pitch and shaped by 46-year-old former France international Florian Maurice off it, Rennes are one of Ligue 1's most vibrant emerging stories and Lea Siliki rates his boss as an upcoming tactical talent.
"The coach is of the new generation," he said. "Last year, guys like Thomas Tuchel and Julian Nagelsmann reached the UCL semi-finals.
"He is a good tactician and manager. I learn a lot from him, and we have known each other since my academy days. We all feel that we can grow together."
Lea Siliki comes into Tuesday's meeting with Krasnodar as part of Stephan's squad despite having not played since March due to injury and is targeting a rapid return to action.
"I will be ready very soon," he said. "I am working very hard to reach full fitness. I need time on pitch, which I am totally focused on.
With continental competition known to stretch French clubs' resources once it gets underway, Lea Siliki should prove to be a valuable asset as Rennes attempt to make a splash in Group E -- starting with the Russians.