Match Preview: Rennes vs Arsenal

Tottenham Hotspur v Arsenal FC - Premier League
LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 02: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang of Arsenal reacts after the Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal FC at Wembley Stadium on March 02, 2019 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

Arsenal return to Europa League action this evening when they travel to France to take on Rennes.

A return to form has seen Arsenal rise up the Premier League table and reinvigorate their hopes of a top-four finish.

They remain committed to the Europa League, though, with that providing another shot at Champions League football for the eventual winners.

With 16 teams now left in the competition, the Gunners can be considered among the favourites and will be confident of seeing off Rennes to secure their place in the last eight.

Team News

Arsenal will be without striker Alexandre Lacazette as he continues to serve a three-game suspension in the competition.

That has forced Unai Emery to turn to the youngsters, adding 18-year-old forward Eddie Nketiah to his squad for this trip.

Rennes, meanwhile, will be without forward M’Baye Niang and defender Hamari Traore who are also both serving suspensions.

What the managers said

Arsenal FC v Southampton FC - Premier League
LONDON, ENGLAND – FEBRUARY 24: Unai Emery, Manager of Arsenal gives his team instructions during the Premier League match between Arsenal FC and Southampton FC at Emirates Stadium on February 23, 2019 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

Unai Emery was keen to play down talk that his side were at a disadvantage as they play their fifth game in 15 days:

“The Premier League decide the schedules, and we adapted,” he said.

“It is not an excuse for us, we have the habit to play a lot of matches week by week.

“You ask me if I prefer sometimes more time to prepare for one match, then yes, but for example, in this match, we don’t have an excuse.

“We played on Saturday, rested Sunday and started to work on Monday. Tomorrow I think we are going to be okay to play every player.

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 02: Fans show their support during the Premier League match between Arsenal FC and Tottenham Hotspur at Emirates Stadium on December 1, 2018 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

We are really disappointed: Vinai Venkatesham

The Arsenal managing director believes the Gunners' fans are very unhappy about the UEFA Europa League Final in Baku, Azerbaijan.

“For us, it is a very important match. We had time to prepare well, we are going to play on Sunday, but we have this habit, and we have the players to share and find combinations with the players who can play tomorrow with a big performance – fresh players with a big energy.”

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Rennes manager, Julien Stephan, meanwhile, was focusing on Hatem Ben Arfa and how he will deal with a frosty reunion with Emery:

“Hatem has a lot of experience, he’ll be able to handle it in a very smart way,” the 38-year-old told reporters.

“We did not need to talk about it together, and there are plenty of other topics to talk about before talking about that. It is Rennes against Arsenal in the Europa League, it is not Hatem against Emery.

“Champions are always present in this type of match, and I’m sure Hatem will have a big game.”

Stats

This is the first-ever meeting between these two teams in any competition.

The Gunners have a strong history against French sides in Europe, having beaten all nine previous French teams they’ve met.

They’ve also never lost an away game to a French team, winning eight of 13 games to date.

This is only the second time Rennes have hosted an English team. The last ones they met were Aston Villa 18 years ago.

Arsenal have kept a clean sheet in six of their last seven Europa League games. Rennes have scored at least two goals in their previous three games in the competition.

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