Arsenal are boosted by Alexandre Lacazette’s ban reduction as the Gunners hope to qualify for the quarter-finals by overcoming the two-goal first leg deficit
Arsenal’s confidence is expected to be sky high after their impressive win over Manchester United in the Premier League. With a top four place in their sights, the Gunners now turn their attention towards Rennes, who will visit the Emirates on Thursday holding a 3-1 lead from the first leg.
Sokratis Papastathopoulos seeing red changed the complexion of the first leg, and the Greek is set to sit this one out. Unai Emery will thus, look to make a change in defence, which could let the manager change the shape of the team and field a more attack-minded lineup.
Shkodran Mustafi is available for selection, but Emery seems to have lost patience with the German due to his erratic displays. Mustafi’s exile should continue on Thursday, with the Arsenal boss likely to pick Laurent Koscielny and Nacho Monreal as his preferred central defensive pairing.
Petr Cech should continue between the posts, as has been the case in cup competitions, despite Bernd Leno’s heroic display against Manchester United. Ainsley Maitland-Niles is likely to keep his place at right-back ahead of Stephan Lichtsteiner, while Sead Kolasinac ought to take his place at left back, with Nacho Monreal moving into the heart of the Arsenal defence.
Emery will likely recall Lucas Torreira in the side after he was suspended for the game against Manchester United this past weekend. Granit Xhaka should be the Uruguayan’s partner in the center of the park.
Meanwhile, apart from Sokratis’ suspension, Alexandre Lacazette is set to return to the side after his own ban was lifted, while Henrikh Mkhitaryan is a significant doubt due to a back strain. The Armenian is yet to recover from the problem, which also kept him out of the game against Manchester United, although a late fitness test could see him make the bench.
In his pre-match press conference, Emery was asked about the possible return of Lacazette upon the end of his suspension and the Arsenal boss appeared to be relieved at the prospect of having his star striker back in contention, as he said, “We are happy that we can take all players because it is better without injuries and without suspended players.
“This news is positive for us. We all know how important Alex Lacazette is to us as a group and obviously the more players we have available the better it is because we do have some quality players, particularly in midfield and up top. Hopefully we will be able to make that danger pay. Let’s just hope that Lacazette can help us to achieve the result tomorrow.”
The decision to field a back four could ensure Emery retains the attacking quartet of Mesut Ozil, Aaron Ramsey, Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in the lineup. Ramsey, who started in midfield last time out, will move into a no.10 role, with Ozil lining up on the right side of the Arsenal attack. Aubameyang will play from the opposite flank, while Lacazette will be Arsenal’s central striker.