Mark O’Haire expects a strong response from Unai Emery’s troops this week
There’s a familiar feeling around Arsenal as they prepare to welcome Rennes to The Emirates on Thursday night. The Gunners fell to a sloppy first leg Last 32 loss to BATE Borisov in Belarus and required a rescue mission in North London to progress; Unai Emery’s troops completed the test with flying colours to seal a spot in the Last 16.
Now Arsenal meet Rennes at The Emirates, trailing 3-1 from the first leg in France. Having taken an early lead, the Gunners shot themselves in the foot as they were reduced to 10-men after just 41 minutes, before eventually succumbing to an embarrassing defeat. The capital club now face a serious but scalable hill in order to reach the quarter-finals.
Emery has form in these situations in the Europa League. The Spaniard has lost the first leg of a knockout tie in this competition on six occasions and overturned the advantage in all bar one; the only exception came when his Valencia team were up against Atletico Madrid in 2011/12. He’s the master in Europa League progression.
Arsenal should be confident of following suit on Thursday. On home soil, the Gunners have claimed an impressive 18 triumphs from 24 matches under Emery’s watch with their only defeats arriving against Manchester City, Manchester United and Spurs across all competitions. Last time out, Arsenal weathered a storm to beat United 2-0 here too.
The hosts have won eight of their last nine fixtures at The Emirates, with the exception against United in the FA Cup – the score in those victories was big enough to see them progress on six occasions. With Alexandre Lacazette’s suspension also quashed, the Gunners have enough punch to overcome a -1.5 Asian Handicap hurdle at 1.83 quotes.
Rennes haven’t often translated their positive home performances on their travels.
The away side have W7-D4-L8 in games as guests across all competitions with five victories coming against bottom-half teams Monaco, Caen and Nantes, as well as fourth-tier outfit Saint-Pryve Saint-Hilaire and Czech side Jablonec.
Julien Stephan’s charges have been beaten in their most recent three away days in Ligue 1 at rock-bottom Guingamp, table-topping PSG and high-flying Reims – the latter two losses by at least a two-goal margin. The French club boast enough ability in the final-third to hurt Arsenal but they’re unlikely to be able to resist a determined, focussed and forward-thinking Gunners outfit on Thursday.
- Arsenal -1.5 Asian Handicap (1.83)