Europa League – Arsenal v Rennes – Round of 16

The Round of 16 in the UEFA Europa League unfolds over the next two Thursdays, so before the action kicks off around Europe on Thursday afternoon, we thought we would preview the eight matchups of the round.

Up next is the match between the English club Arsenal, who has the pleasure of hosting French club Rennes. The game kicks off from Emirates Stadium in London, England on 14 March 2019 at 8:00pm GMT (4:00pm EST).

What Happened in Leg 1

Oh boy, where to begin.

Alex Iwobi opened scoring last week, scoring in the fourth minute to help Arsenal look everything like the three-to-one favorite they were entering the match. And they held that lead through most of the first half, but in the 41st minute, Arsenal defender Sokratis received his second yellow card of the game, forcing Arsenal to play down a man for the last 50+ minutes of the match.

Rennes wasted little time in taking advantage, with Benjamin Bourigeaud equalizing less than a minute later, going into half time in a surprising tie. The tie persisted until the 65th minute, when Arsenal defender Nacho Monreal knocking in an own goal to give the French team a lead they wouldn’t relinquish. Ismaila Sarr finished the scoring for Rennes, scoring in the 88th minute and securing the 3-1 victory for Rennes.

What the Experts are Saying

Despite the loss, Arsenal only saw their chances of advancing drop by half, down to 37% according to FiveThirtyEight. While not a guarantee, other clubs with similar losses in leg one saw their odds decrease further, so obviously there are systems out there that think that Arsenal is still the strong club.

This is probably for two reasons: one, Arsenal is hosting the second leg, and they have performed really well at Emirates this season. Second, Rennes has struggled domestically, and are currently in 9th place in Ligue 1 (after finishing in 5th last season). Arsenal has a 65% chance to win this leg, and the Emirates crowd will be sure to let them know if they start to fall behind early in this one.

What We’re Thinking

Arsenal should be able to overcome the absence of Sokratis; like most elite Premier League clubs, they have a deep roster and a big incentive to send out the first team for this match, as they won’t be playing another match until the end of the month. Expect some early goals from the Gunners, with the weaker French club succumbing to the onslaught…

…or the French could find a way to pull it out and the Arsenal followers might start screaming a little louder for Unai Emery’s job.

Until next time…

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