Despite having won 3-1 in France last week, Rennes will be on the front foot as they take on Arsenal - who have Alexandre Lacazette back early from suspension - in the second leg of their last-16 tie on Thursday.
Thursday, 14 February, 2019
UEFA Europa League Round of 16, second leg
Emirates Stadium, London
Arsenal FC - Stade Rennais FC (1-3)
Rennes's 3-1 win over Arsenal at Roazhon Park last week surprised many, especially as the Brittany club came back from a goal down to do so, and one school of thought would have coach Julien Stéphan approach the return leg in London looking looking to defend their first-leg lead.
After all, Rennes have never made it to the knockout rounds of a European competition before, let alone qualified for the quarter-finals by beating a side of the calibre of EPL giants Arsenal. But Stéphan, who has mercurial striker Mbaye Niang back from suspension, has vowed that his side will be on the front foot.
Stéphan: 'Play to our strengths'
"We've come to London with the objective and ambition of of scoring at least one goal. If we just sit back and defend, we'll get into some serious trouble. We have to focus on how we want to play and not only on the result," declared Stéphan, who has imbued his team with an attacking mindset since taking the reins in December, with Hatem Ben Arfa shining brightly in the playmaker's role, notably in the 3-1 win last week. "We'll look to play to our strengths and our qualities, posing problems for an Arsenal side who will be, I'm convinced, even stronger than they were in the first leg."
This last point was doubtless a reference to UEFA's reducing the suspension of Alexandre Lacazette - who missed the first leg after copping a three-match ban for elbowing BATE Borisov's Aleksandar Filipovic in the last 32 - to two matches, making the France striker eligible to face Rennes - just 24 hours before kick-off.
Emery: 'Create a big atmosphere'
Former PSG boss Unai Emery, now at the helm of Arsenal, knows his side have it all to do - they will have to score at least three goals - but believes his side can show their quality in front of their own fans.
"In Europa League we are finding some results like the last round versus Borisov, difficult. It will be a tough match but our demand for our best performance is very high. I want to play matches with difficult results, against tough players," said the Spanish coach. "Tomorrow we need to be together and create a big atmosphere with our supporters to help us. We need to control for 90 minutes, maybe more, we want to control but be on the game."
Arsenal FC: Cech; Mustafi, Koscielny (c), Monreal; Maitland-Niles, Ramsey, Xhaka, Kolasinac; Özil; Aubameyang, Lacazette
Stade Rennais FC: Koubek; H. Traoré, Da Silva, Mexer, Bensebaïni; André (c), Grenier; Sarr, Ben Arfa, Bourigeaud; M. Niang