When Arsenal drew French Ligue One outfit Rennes in the last 16 of the Europa League, I doubt many associated with the Gunners were quaking in their boots. However, they could prove to be tricky opponents for Arsenal.
Not to be complacent, but the French club are the sort of team that the Gunners should really be comfortably beating if they are to go far in the Europa League this season. Unai Emery’s side travels to France on Thursday night for the first leg of their last 16 tie, with the team from north London hoping to pick up a positive result to take into the second leg.
Rennes are midtable in the French top-flight
In terms of position, Rennes are currently 10th in the French top-flight table after an inconsistent league campaign so far this season. However, their form has improved slightly of late, as they have been hard to beat, losing just once in eight outings in all competitions.
Despite their recent unbeaten run, Rennes are too far adrift of the European places to challenge the teams in the top four. They do have decent quality and will head into the tie believing they have a chance of progressing.
Arsenal need to beware of their travel sickness
Arsenal’s struggles on their travels of late are now well documented. The Gunners have won just two of their last ten away games in all competitions, which has hampered their bid to clinch a top-four spot in the Premier League this season.
While the Gunners have not been prolific on their travels of late, they have scored in 19 of their last 21 away games in all competitions. However, on the flip side, the team from north London have also kept just one clean sheet in ten away matches in all competitions. That solitary clean sheet came in a FA Cup tie against lower Blackpool, which is hardly a great accomplishment.
Arsenal should progress
Despite Rennes potentially proving a tricky opponent, Arsenal really should progress to the last eight of the competition. Winning the Europa League is certainly a handy extra route to take for Champions League football for next season.
If the Gunners pick up a positive result in the first leg, then their passage to the next round should be pretty comfortable, as Emery’s team are a difficult team to beat at the Emirates Stadium.
Will Arsenal progress past Rennes in the Europa League?