Arsenal v Rennes: Gunners can have a special European night
Arsenal have got themselves into a big hole in the Europa League, but Kevin Hatchard thinks they can dig themselves out at the Emirates...
"Arsenal are turning the Emirates into a football fortress, just as Unai Emery did with the Sanchez Pizjuan in his time at Sevilla. The Gunners are well capable of getting the 2-0 win they need to progress."
Arsenal v Rennes
Thursday 14 March, 20:00
Live on BT Sport
Arsenal can continue stellar home form
When we think of great European evenings with spine-tingling atmospheres, we perhaps think of Anfield or Old Trafford, or perhaps Stamford Bridge. While the Emirates is a magnificent stadium, it is hardly an intimidating bearpit, but under Unai Emery is it slowly gaining a reputation as a fearsome fortress.
Although Manchester United missed some presentable chances at the weekend, Arsenal ran out 2-0 winners to seriously boost their hopes of a top-four finish, and they have now won their last five home matches in all competitions.
Just as he did at Sevilla at the Sanchez Pizjuan, Emery is creating a consistency at home, an expectation of victory. I thought the Gunners might fall short against United on Sunday, but they have now recorded home victories against Tottenham, Chelsea and Manchester United, and they have won 11 of their last 13 home matches in all competitions. They came back from a first-leg deficit to overcome BATE Borisov in the round of 32, and now they must dig themselves out of trouble again.
Sokratis is suspended after his clumsy dismissal in the first leg, but Alexandre Lacazette is available after serving a suspension. Henrikh Mkhitaryan is an injury doubt.
Rennes have built a platform, but can they use it?
Rennes were excellent against Arsenal last week, attacking with pace and intensity, roared on by a passionate crowd. Young winger Ismaila Sarr was a constant threat, and he fully deserved his late goal, which came courtesy of a diving header and a lack of defensive diligence from a tired and numerically inferior Arsenal.
Now Rennes' biggest test of the Europa League awaits, and there is evidence to suggest they might not pass it. Julien Stephan's men lost 4-1 at PSG recently, and while that's an understandable mauling, they also went down at Reims and struggling Guingamp. In this competition, they lost 2-0 at Astana and 3-1 at Dynamo Kiev in the group stage. They have only won four of their 13 away matches in Ligue 1.
The standout performance on the road from Rennes was their superb 3-1 win at Real Betis in the previous round. They were 2-0 up inside half an hour, and the Spanish side never recovered.
Right-back Hamari Traore should return after a ban, while Benjamin Andre has recovered from the injury that kept him out of the weekend's win over Caen.
Gunners can turn the tie around
Arsenal are trading at [1.3] here, and that's understandable given their recent home form and Rennes' patchy results on the road. A 2-0 win would see Arsenal through on away goals, and that kind of result seems well within their reach, especially with the outstanding Lacazette back in the ranks.
Rennes have given themselves a great chance of making the quarter-finals, and an away goal will cause Arsenal plenty of problems, but at [2.02] I think the hosts are worth backing in the To Qualify market.
Rennes to breach Gunners defence?
Rennes have scored at least twice in four of their last five matches, and they have netted three goals in each of their last three Europa League matches. They have found the net in 11 of their last 12 matches in all competitions.
On that basis, you might be tempted to back Both Teams To Score at [1.87].
Kevin Hatchard 2018-19 Europa League P/L
Points Staked: 51
Points Returned: 49.65
P/L: -1.35 points
Back Arsenal to qualify at [2.02]