Stade Rennais v Arsenal Preview: Can the Gunners secure a strong first leg performance?
Alex Iwobi battles against BATE Borisov. | Source: TF-Images / Getty Images

Stade Rennais v Arsenal Preview: Can the Gunners secure a strong first leg performance?

Match preview of Arsenal's round of 16 Europa League match against Stade Rennes

Rosie Tudball

Arsenal travel to Rennes ahead of their Thursday night clash with Rennes in the Europa League round of 16. 

It will be the first time the two teams have met competitively, and with both in form prior to the fixture, a lively game is expected.  

Team Form 

Rennes are 10th in Ligue 1, and are currently unbeaten in their last three fixtures in all competitions, including their 3-1 away to Real Betis in the previous round of the Europa League.  

Les Rouges et Noirs displayed an impressive attacking knowhow in the last round, beating Betis 6-4 on aggregate over the two legs. After a 3-3 draw at Roazhon Park, Julien Stephan’s team secured their place in the last 16 in Spain.  

Despite being in strong form, Rennes will have to look out for their opposition as Arsenal are yet to lose away to French opposition.  

The Gunners are unbeaten in their last four games, with wins against BATE Borisov, Bournemouth, Southampton and a draw against Tottenham Hotspur.  

Unai Emery’s side were shocked in the first leg of the last round, being defeated by BATE Borisov in Belarus 1-0, with the tie all to play for at the Emirates.  

The deal was sealed thanks to goals from Shkodran MustafiSokratis and an own goal from Zakhar Volkov, in a 3-0 win for the Gunners, confirming their place in the next round.  

Who could make the difference? 

Despite being 10th in Ligue 1, Rennes pack a punch in attack with a strong armoury of top performing players this season.  

Ismaila Sarr is the side’s top scorer, with eight goals and six assists this campaign, M’Baye Niang, Benjamin Bourigeaud and Emery’s rival Hatem Ben Arfa are honourable mentions in Rennes’ attack also. 

Ben Arfa and Emery agreed to disagree during their time at Paris Saint Germain, the Frenchman will be looking to get revenge on his old manager.  

Many are aware of the threat Arsenal can pose, however with Alexandre Lacazette suspended for the tie, it’ll be down to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to lead the line.  

The Gabon striker had a performance to forget against Spurs, missing a number of chances and a potential match winning penalty in the final minutes of the game – the tie could be the striker's opportunity to restore faith and build confidence.  

Team News 

Petr Cech is expected to start for the Gunners, as well as Lucas Torreira following his three match ban in the Premier League after Saturday’s fixture.  

Lacazette will be missing due to suspension, however Mesut Özil will be expected to start. 

Rennes will be without right-back Hamari Traore due to suspension, Romain Danze, Abdoulaye Diallo, Jordan Siebatcheu and Ludovic Baal will not feature due to injury.  

Benjamin Andre is expected to return to the squad after his suspension.  

Predicted Elevens 

Koubek; Zeffane, Silva, Mexer, Bensebaini; Sarr, Andre, Grenier, Niang; Ben Arfa; Hunou 

Cech; Maitland-Niles, Mustafi, Sokratis, Kolasinac; Xhaka, Torreira; Mkhitaryan, Özil, Iwobi; Aubameyang