LONDON (Reuters) – Arsenal manager Unai Emery says he is relishing the difficult task of attempting to overturn a two-goal deficit in their Europa League last-16 second leg against Rennes on Thursday.
The London club lost 3-1 in France last week despite taking an early lead, playing more than half the match with 10 men after defender Sokratis Papastathopoulos was sent off just before the interval.
A 2-0 win over Manchester United in the Premier League last Sunday was the perfect tonic though and Emery, three times a Europa League winner as manager of Sevilla, believes that the tough task will bring the best out of his players.
“For us, it’s one positive issue because we want to play big matches, tough matches against the best teams,” Emery told a news conference on Wednesday.
“I want to play matches that are difficult, with difficult results or with difficult players. Tomorrow is one such match. We need to be together and create a big atmosphere in the Emirates with our supporters to help us to do the best performance possible in 90 minutes.
“We need to play with high emotion with our supporters but taking clever decisions on the pitch.”
Arsenal will be boosted by having striker Alexandre Lacazette available after his UEFA ban was reduced to two matches.
The French striker was initially handed a three-match ban after he was red-carded at the end of Arsenal’s round of 32 first leg against BATE Borisov.
“We can play with two strikers, we can play with one,” Emery said. “Tomorrow I am thinking not only of the first 11, because I think we are going to need different situations, maybe different systems and maybe different players.”
Arsenal’s fine home form will make them slight favourites to overturn the deficit but Emery is wary of a Rennes side who will pose a considerable danger on the counter-attack.
“They are a good team in a good moment and they have quality with different players. They have spirit and have fresh players playing offensively,” Emery said. “They won against Betis over two matches with a big performance.
“In the first 90 minutes they beat us and tomorrow we want to show here it can be different. But we have a big respect for them. We need to control our emotions and control the different situations and scenarios that can come in the 90 minutes.”
Arsenal will be without the suspended Sokratis while Henrikh Mkhitaryan is being assessed because of a back strain.
(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Toby Davis)