THE EUROPA LEAGUE Last 16 gets underway on Thursday night as Arsenal travel to Rennes. Adam Goodwin (@AdamGoodwin__) shares his betting thoughts.
Rennes v Arsenal | Thursday 7th March 2019, 17:55 | BT Sport
This is the first time Rennes have ever reached this stage of a European competition and ticket demand for the game could have seen the 30,000 capacity Roazhon Park sold out four times over. Arsenal will have to handle what will be an electric atmosphere in northwest France, with excitement palpable ahead of this tie.
Les Rouges et Noirs tend to like playing at home anyway, with the French side currently sustaining a 12 match unbeaten run (W8-D4)-L0 in front of their supporters. They score an average of two goals a game in that period and they’ll fancy bagging against a far from convincing Arsenal defence here.
Two players that will undoubtedly be up for this game are Ismali Sarr and Hatem Ben Arfa. Sarr was linked with the Gunners at the start of the season and in January, and he’ll be keen to show them what they’re missing out on. Ben Arfa had falling out with Emery after being frozen out by his then gaffer when the pair were at PSG, and the French forward will be keen to stick it to his former boss here.
Rennes also have M’Baye Niang amongst their ranks who I was impressed with at the World Cup, so they definitely have the ability to hurt Arsenal.
Arsenal vulnerable favourites
Arsenal looked like they might secure all three points in the North London derby on Saturday, but Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang couldn’t convert a 90th minute penalty and it ended all square. Despite their good performance at the weekend, I’m not convinced by the Gunners’ away form.
The only games they’ve won away from the Emirates were against Huddersfield, Blackpool and Vorskla in the Europa League. They’ve lost to BATE, West Ham and Southampton away from home in that time and I just don’t think they travel particularly well.
The Gunners did secure a narrow win over a decent Sporting Lisbon side in this competition in October but that was during their mammoth unbeaten run. I think they’ll have a tricky game on their hands here.
I would’ve fancied Alexandre Lacazette to score after frequently playing against Rennes in Ligue 1 for Lyon, but the Frenchman is denied a homecoming as he continues to serve his ban in Europe. Aubameyang will be starting up-front and might not be full of confidence after his late penalty miss last time out.
The betting angle
I want to get Rennes onside here because, as well as being a decent side, the atmosphere that’ll be generated at Roazhon Park could be enough to get them over the line.
You can back the home side to score 2+ goals at 2/1 with Coral which is a price I like a lot, with it landing in four of their last five home games. Arsenal’s defence still doesn’t convince me and they could struggle to contain a front three containing the likes of Sarr, Ben Arfa and Niang.
Rennes v Arsenal – Rennes to score 2+ goals (2/1 Coral)