Stade Rennais are our next opponents and will prove a thorough test of our Europa League credentials, as we seek a place in the Quarter-Finals.
Stade Rennais, or more simply, Rennes, last played on the 27th March so will be fully refreshed for this fixture. They sit firmly entrenched in mid table of Ligue Un, and have the players to pose many problems for us.
With the Premier League providing non-stop thrills in our quest to earn a top4 spot, there may be a chance that heavy rotation or even a lack of concentration could cost us. Our previous round against BATE even showed a tendency for complacency in our side, but against Rennes, any of these tendencies will be exposed.
Unai Emery has the finest pedigree in this competition, and should ensure we go into this game fully prepared, but what sort of team can we expect to line up in France?
Aside from the usual injury suspects - Hector Bellerin, Rob Holding and Danny Welbeck, we have a full bill of health, with no players suffering any injuries whatsoever.
In fact, the above and the suspended Alexandre :Lacazette aside, we can choose from our full pool of players.
With Laca unavailable, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will have the sole responsibility of putting away the goals for us. Who will be loading the bullets for the Gabon man though?
Mesut Ozil is a big shout for a start, with European football suiting his game. Plus, should this be a tight game, the German stands the best chance to give us an opening. Henrikh Mkhitaryan is in fine form too, so both of these could feature.
Petr Cech will once again pick up the gloves in what is his final season, and this game will have special significance for him, as Rennes are one of his former clubs.
Matteo Guendouzi could be on the bench for this, with Lucas Torreira’s red card being upheld. The Uruguayan is now suspended for three PL games, so it goes without saying that he will most likely start, giving Guendouzi a much needed breather.
Our defence pretty much picks itself. The only choice will be between the full backs. Will Lichtsteiner get the nod ahead of what now appears to be the first choice of Ainsley Maitland-Niles? What of Mustafi, who performed well in the RB slot for so long against Spurs in the weekend, only for one foolish error to cost us?
Player to Watch
Hatem Ben Arfa
Ismael Sarr is hot property, but Ben Arfa has the capability to rip us to shreds. His biggest enemy is himself though, If he chooses to, he could walk through most of our defence, and cause massive openings his teammates could take full advantage of. The Frenchman needs to be neutralised with some close marking - something that Torreira could be tasked with.
How The Game Will Go
Rennes like to attack, and with Sarr, Niang and Ben Arfa, have the talent to cause some hurt. We need to stay patient and believe the openings will come.
Their defence is nothing to write home about, and we can definitely score goals. We could put this game to bed in the first leg, but if we can take a win back to the fortress that is The Emirates, we can consider this a job well done.
I think this has the potential for a high scoring affair, and if we are considering the comparative strengths of attack and defence, we win on both counts. There is nothing to highlight that Rennes are particularly strong at home - in fact, their 3-1 win away to Betis shows that they may even be stronger for our second leg. We need to do some damage in France to be sure.
Cech, Lichtsteiner, Sokratis, Koscielny, Kolasinac, Torreira, Xhaka, Ozil, Mkhitaryan, Iwobi, Aubameyang
Predicted Scoreline - 3-1 to The Arsenal