The UEFA Europa League is the kind of competition that doesn’t get the respect that it deserves, which is a shame. For those teams that can’t yet break into the UEFA Champions League, it offers up a nice opportunity for them to go far in a competition full of other hungry teams that we otherwise wouldn’t have heard of from around Europe. It’s a constantly evolving process trying to get people to understand why it has some value, and it’s something that fans like us will be working on for many years to come.
As one of my colleague’s reported earlier, Arsenal have been drawn with Italian side Napoli in the last eight of the Europa League. The draw is probably one of the hardest the team from North London could have for in the quarter-finals of the competition. Arsenal produced an impressive display to beat French club Rennes 3-0 on Thursday night in the second leg of their last 16 tie. The win saw the Gunners head through 4-3 on aggregate.
Napoli second favourites to win the Europa League
Napoli are current second favourites to win the Europa League at odds of 4/1. Only Arsenal’s London rivals Chelsea are shorter odds to lift the trophy this season.
Arsenal have been drawn to face Italian side Napoli in the quarterfinals of this season’s UEFA Europa League.
No draw result at this stage of the competition would have been exactly easy will only the best eight of all the participants remaining in the running, but Napoli certainly seems like one of the hardest, if not the hardest opponent of all.
The side led by the experienced Carlo Ancelotti boasts huge quality in all departments, with Arsenal loanee David Ospina in goal, the much coveted centre-back Kalidou Koulibaly in front of him, midfielders like Allan and Piotr Zielinski, and forwards like Dries Mertens, Lorenzo Insigne and Arkadiusz Milik.
Nobody needs to tell Arsenal fans twice: their backs are against the wall tonight in the UEFA Europa League. They go into their second leg tie against Rennes with a 3-1 deficit to contend with, and as you can probably work out, that’s a little bit more complicated than their tie against BATE Borisov. This is a much better team, a much more organised team, and seemingly a much more determined team. All of those attributes add up to problems for the Gunners, and when we say problems, we mean it.
Thursday night was a poor one for Arsenal, as the Gunners went own 3-1 to Rennes in the first leg of their Europa League last 16 tie. Unai Emery’s side were actually ahead in the first half until the 41st-minute dismissal of Greek centre-back Sokratis Papastathopoulos.
The incident changed the course of the game, as the French side equalised straight from Benjamin Bourigeaud resulting free-kick. From then on Arsenal seemed to capitulate.
Poor away form continues
Arsenal’s poor away form continued in France. The defeat means the Gunners have lost their last two away games in the Europa League. Unai Emery’s team have now also won just two of their last 11 matches on their travels in all competitions.
Arsenal heads into a potentially tricky Europa League last 16 first leg against Rennes tonight without one of their star attackers, Alexandre Lacazette. The Gunners are favourites to over the midtable French side, but the striker’s absence is certainly a blow.
A silly sending off at BATE costly
Lacazette will miss both the Gunners clashes with the French side after being handed a three-match ban for a silly sending off at BATE in the first leg of the round of 32. The late sending off was a result of frustration with the fact that the Gunners losing 1-0.
Do Arsenal need any extra motivation to get the job done against Rennes tonight? Probably not. The idea of progressing one step further in Europe should probably be motivation enough. Of course, we all know that the end goal is winning the Europa League – primarily so that the Gunners can force their way back into the Champions League. Speaking of the Champions League, we think it’s worth taking a look at one of the competition’s best games this season which took place last night.
On Thursday evening, Arsenal travel to France to face Rennes in the Europa League last-16 first leg, hopeful of returning to the capital with a positive result to take into the second leg in a weeks’ time.
Rennes are currently midtable in Ligue One after an inconsistent run of form of late. However, the visitors have been a tough nut to crack in recent months, as the home side has suffered just one defeat in eight games in all competitions.
As we noted in our last post, it’s time to move on from the North London derby. What happened happened, and there’s no point crying about it. Arsenal need to get back to business, and that isn’t exclusively going to happen in the Premier League. They’ve also got the Europa League to worry about, which we think is going to be a pretty interesting competition between now and the end of the season. Will Arsenal come out on top? They’ve certainly got a good chance, but they’ll need to get over their next hurdle first.
Having succumbed to a 1-0 defeat in the first leg, Arsenal beat BATE Borisov comfortably (3-0) in the return game of the Europa League round of 32. The draw for the next round was held on Firday, and Rennes are next up to face the Gunners.
It’s fair to say the French side aren’t having a great season. After 25 rounds in Ligue 1, they sit in 11th place with 36 points – a tally and position hardly worthy of a club playing in Europe. On the other hand, squad depth needed to successfully compete in two relatively strong competitions is a luxury not affordable for everyone.