There are some very good teams in the Europa League last 16.
Alongside Arsenal, there is also Chelsea, Inter Milan, Napoli, Valencia and Sevilla. It is Europe’s 2nd tier competition and you arguably have the creme dela crème of those sides not in the Champions League.
It would not be too surprising to see all 6 of those teams in the Champions League next season.
That is why Arsenal absolutely caught a break in the next round by drawing Rennes. Currently sitting 10th in Ligue 1, Rennes have a pedestrian 6-4-3 record at home this season.
In the Europa League this season, they could only manage a draw at home to Kiev in the Group State, and drew at home to Real Betis in the Round of 32.
Presently, Arsenal are 1/4 favorite’s to advance, and writers at sites like Sports Betting Dime see the Gunners as having a great chance to earn at least an away draw before finishing the job in London.
That being said, Arsenal need to ensure they take the tie seriously. The defeat away to BATE Borisov would have been a wake up call for the club.
The 1-0 loss in the 1st leg in Belarus was a shock to everyone and should be used as a reminder that no matter the gulf between clubs; any result can happen on any given day.
I do not think the environment in Minsk helped Arsenal, and this should be taken as minor extenuating circumstances.
The sub zero temperatures, the frozen, badly prepared pitch. It was a bit like an old school FA Cup 3rd round game when you would go to some dark corner of England, face a small team on a water logged, muddy, cut up pitch. The opponents would score from a set piece and the better team would labour on.
Against Rennes it should be a different story.
A city in the east of Brittany, north west France, it is little over an hour flying time from London. A case could probably be made that Arsenal do not travel up the day before. Instead meet at London Colney for breakfast on Thursday, a quick coach to Luton and a chartered flight into Rennes. They will be there before lunch; with 5 hours to prepare for the game.
Arsenal will not face the similar cold, frozen, bumpy pitch that they did in Borisov.
A positive result today will take Arsenal to 5 games unbeaten before the big game on Sunday against Manchester United.
Anyone heading out there – I imagine you are already in France – enjoy the game.