What to expect from Arsenal’s Europa League opponents Stade Rennais

first_img Oliver Young-MylesWednesday 6 Mar 2019 12:00 pmShare this article via facebookShare this article via twitterShare this article via messengerShare this with Share this article via emailShare this article via flipboardCopy link379Shares M’Baye Niang had a short stint with Watford in the Premier League (Getty Images)Niang, who struck twice in 16 appearances during a loan spell at Vicarage Road in the 2016-17 season, will be a miss considering he has scored five goals in his previous ten games in all competitions, including the away win over Real Betis in the previous round.Striker Jordan Siebatcheau and goalkeeper Abdoulaye Diallo are also doubts having been out of action with thigh injuries.More: FootballRio Ferdinand urges Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to drop Manchester United starChelsea defender Fikayo Tomori reveals why he made U-turn over transfer deadline day moveMikel Arteta rates Thomas Partey’s chances of making his Arsenal debut vs Man CityEuropa League story so far Hatem Ben Arfa joined Rennes last summer on a free transfer from PSG (Getty Images)Forget about Mario Balotelli’s recent selfie celebration antics for Marseille, Hatem Ben Arfa remains French football’s biggest maverick. By a distance. Now at his seventh club following a journey that has taken him from Lyon to Newcastle to PSG’s reserves, Ben Arfa is thriving in the latest pitstop of his whistle-stop tour of a career.Ben Arfa, who celebrates his 32nd birthday on Thursday night, will always be regarded as a ‘what if’ footballer considering his natural artistry hasn’t been enjoyed at football’s top table nearly enough, yet he still has the ability to turn on a big performance with a metaphorical flick of the switch.Since arriving at Rennes last summer, Ben Arfa has managed five goals and two assists from 18 Ligue 1 matches registering crucial strikes in big games against Monaco and Lyon. His record in the Europa League has also been respectable with two goals and an assist in seven matches.His remarkable fallout with Emery, meanwhile, will provide an intriguing sub-plot across both legs. Emery famously ostracised Ben Arfa from his PSG squad last season with the playmaker failing to make a single appearance in any competition.This Twitter thread from Get French Football summarises their beef pretty neatly, but amongst other things, Emery told Ben Arfa to stop acting like Messi, Ben Arfa ate a kebab at training and celebrated his one-year expulsion from the first-team with an anniversary cake. Incredible.One to watch – Ismaila Sarr Julien Stephan was promoted after impressing for Rennes’ B team (Getty Images)The son of France’s World Cup-winning assistant manager Guy Stephan, Julien Stéphan is a relative novice to the managerial game – at the top-level, at least – having taken charge at Rennes at the start of December following the sacking of Sabri Lamouchi.Prior to his appointment, Stéphan had been in charge of Rennes’ B team for three and a half seasons and his impressive work for them led to his promotion. Just nine days and a couple of 2-0 wins after stepping up to the top job, Stéphan was given a permanent contract.Results under the 38-year-old have been pretty spectacular, truth be told. After beating Lyon away in his first game, Stéphan steered Rennes into a European knockout round for the first time in the club’s history, beat Real Betis in the last-32 and has taken the team to the semi-finals of the French Cup.Of his 20 matches in charge, Stéphan has won 12 of them and lost only three times including to runaway Ligue 1 leaders PSG at the Parc Des Princes.AdvertisementTeam newsExperienced full-backs Romain Danze and Ludovic Baal are both long-term absentees with knee and hamstring injuries respectively, while Hamari Traore and one-time Watford loanee M’Baye Niang are ruled out of the first-leg through suspension. Stade Rennais have been in good form of late (Getty Images)Following a good recent run of form on the domestic front, Arsenal resume their continental campaign on Thursday when they travel to Brittany to face Stade Rennais in their Europa League last-16 first leg tie.Arsenal’s hopes of finishing in the top four and consequently qualifying for next season’s Champions League have received a boost following a return of ten points from a possible 12 in their previous four Premier League matches.Despite their strong showings in the league, Unai Emery will leave nothing to chance in his quest to deliver Champions League football to Arsenal and winning the Europa League, therefore, will remain high on his agenda.AdvertisementAdvertisementStanding in Arsenal’s way is a Stade Rennais side that flattered to deceive during the first half of the season but who are currently in pretty good shape themselves. Here is all you need to know about the Gunners’ upcoming opponents…ADVERTISEMENTStar-man – Hatem Ben Arfa Comment Rennes players celebrating their victory against Real Betis at the Benito Villamarín Stadium (Getty Images)Rennes had looked destined to be heading out of the competition in the group stage after losing three of their opening four matches to Kazakhstan outfit Astana and Ukraine’s Dynamo Kiev – Chelsea’s upcoming opponents – home and away.Former Lyon midfielder Clement Grenier scored the only goal in a 1-0 away victory to Jablonec to set up a winner-takes-all final fixture with Astana which Rennes went on to win 2-0 thanks to a double from Ismaila Sarr.After finishing second in the group, Rennes were drawn against Real Betis who finished ahead of Olympiacos and AC Milan in Group F. Rennes looked to have passed up their opportunity to progress further after chucking away a 3-1 lead to draw 3-3 in the first leg at home.However, an impressive 3-1 win in the return game in Seville ensured that they went through 6-4 on aggregate.Recent form: DLWLW What to expect from Arsenal’s Europa League opponents Stade Rennais Advertisement The manager: Julien Stéphan Czech goalkeeper Tomas Koubek was signed on Petr Cech’s recommendation (Getty Images)How Rennes could line-up: Koubek; Zeffane, Da Silva, Mexer, Bensebaini; Sarr, Andre, Bourigeaud, Grenier; Ben Arfa; HunouAdvertisementMore: SchoolMum finds girl, 6, rubbing talcum powder on her face to make herself whiteParents vow to homeschool son after headteacher bans face masks in classTrans boy, 17, waiting two and a half years to get an appointment at gender clinic Ismaila Sarr has a habit of conjuring up spectacular moments (Getty Images)A decade Ben Arfa’s junior but no less electric on his day, 22-year-old livewire Ismaila Sarr has the pace and trickery to cause Arsenal’s backline untold problems down their left flank. It will be interesting to see whether Emery opts for Sead Kolasinac or the more safety-first option of Nacho Monreal to contain him.Sarr, a Senegalese international who represented his country at the last World Cup, started out at famed finishing school Génération Foot in Dakar, following in the footsteps of notable alumni such as Papiss Cisse, Diafra Sakho and Sadio Mane by moving from there to Europe.AdvertisementAdvertisementHe followed in Mane’s footsteps by taking his first steps in the professional game with FC Metz before earning a move to Rennes in 2017. Since joining his current club, Sarr has continued to develop nicely, saving his best for the Europa League by scoring three goals and providing two assists in this season’s competition.Among his European goals is this screamer against Czech Republic side Jablonec in the group stage:Technique levels = 💯Take a bow, Ismaïla Sarr 😳👏pic.twitter.com/MoVKo1P03y— BT Sport (@btsport) September 20, 2018 Advertisementlast_img

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *