Arsenal’s next opponents for the Last 16 of the Europa League have been drawn, and it will be Rennes of Ligue Un that will provide the next obstacle to Europa League glory.
The French team will be a tougher test than previous opponents BATE Borisov, so the first task will be to set up a far more formidable team than the one that stumbled past the Belarusians.
Stade Rennais (as they are formally known) squeezed past Real Betis in their last outing, with a 3-3 draw preceding an impressive 3-1 win at the home of Betis.
So what can we expect from Rennes?
Manager - Julien Stephan
Stephan replaced Sabri Lamouchi in 2018 after an undistinguished playing career. It is his first coaching job, and it was given to him after he helped them reach their first ever knockout stage in a European competition.
He has only been in the job for two months, so it is difficult to gauge the manager of Rennes, but looking at his results, he has lost only three of his 18 games in charge. Scoring 32 goals in the process, he has used his star men well, and the emphasis of his team so far has been on attack, rather than a stoic defence.
Players to watch
Rennes’ star man must be Hatem Ben Arfa - the tricky winger who occasionally lit up the Premiership for Newcastle. He is an intermittent presence in the French squad, but in terms of skill, he is one of the best wingers in France.
Then you have the striking talents of Ismail Sarr and M’Baye Niang.
Sarr is hot property, and has been for a few seasons. He is a wide man, but his goal return resembles that of a hotshot striker. Sarr actually chose Rennes over a glamorous move to Barcelona. this tells us that Sarr is the real deal, and with a goal ratio of one goal in every four games, this winger could torment our wing-backs
Niang is on loan from Torino, and has extensive experience in the big leagues. A former Milan man, Niang featured in the Premiership for Watford briefly on loan. Niang has been around recently looking for a permanent club in recent years, with five loans in four years. He seems to be a good fit at Rennes though, and will give our defenders a tough workout.
We have the stronger squad and should oversee victory, but another performance like our first leg against BATE will see Rennes take full advantage, with no let-off.
The first leg will take place in Rennes on the 7th March, with the 2nd leg at The Emirates on the 14th March.