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Arsenal trail Rennes 1-3 on aggregate and will host Rennes in the second leg of round of 16 in UEL

It’s do-or-die time for Arsenal. Their hopes of qualifying for the quarter-finals of the Europa League hangs by a thread after the 3-1 humiliation in Brittany a week ago. Rennes are enjoying their best European campaign this season and the win last week marked the biggest night in the club’s history. The French side will want to continue on the upward trajectory and deny any sort of comeback for the Gunners at The Emirates.

Julien Stephan’s side would be encouraged by the fact that only one team in the history of Europa League has progressed to the next round after losing 3-1 in the first leg of a knockout tie which was another London club Fulham in 2009-10 season against Juventus.

But Arsenal may have been handed a bit of a lifeline by UEFA after Alexandre Lacazette’s 3 match suspension was reduced and the French striker is now permitted to play in the second leg. This may throw a bit of spanner in Stephan’s preparation considering UEFA’s decision came just 48 hours before the all-important tie. Lacazette’s inclusion will give Unai Emery more flexibility in the formations he can field out.

With Bernd Leno the first-choice goalkeeper in the Premier League, this may potentially be Petr Cech’s final game as a professional footballer as the ex-Chelsea goalkeeper is set to hang up his gloves at the end of the season. The Czech veteran was at the top of his game as he produced 6 saves on the night and will no doubt not want his side to crash out of the competition so early in the competition.


TEAM NEWS:

Arsenal welcome back Henrikh Mkhitaryan to the side after the Armenian missed the weekend clash against Manchester United. Alexandre Lacazette is back after his suspension was reduced. Sokratis will miss the game as a result of his red card in the first leg.

Rennes, on the other hand, see striker M'Baye Niang and right-back Hamari Traore come back into the team after serving their suspension for the first leg and could be in contention to start after both started the match against Caen on the weekend in Ligue 1.


PROBABLE LINE-UPS:

Arsenal (3-4-3):

Cech; Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal; Maitland-Niles, Xhaka, Torreira, Kolasinac; Mkhitaryan, Ozil, Lacazette


Rennes (4-2-3-1):

Koubek; Traore, Da Silva, Mexer, Bensebaini; Bourigeaud, Grenier; Sarr, Ben Arfa, Niang; Hunou


SCORE PREDICTION: Arsenal 2 - 1 Rennes

Lacazette’s inclusion allows more manoeuvrability for the Gunners in their attack as evidenced in their triumph over Manchester United on the weekend. Arsenal will have to win by 2 unanswered goals at the very least to go through. However, they’ll have to do it without Sokratis in the heart of the defense which may be a tough proposition with Ismaila Sarr and Hatem Ben Arfa looking to punish Arsenal at every opportunity they get.

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