Arsenal have plenty of work to reach a second successive quarter-final as they attempt to retrieve a 3-1 defeat at Rennes.
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Rennes, enjoying the most successful European campaign in their history, bring a handy 3-1 lead to north London, obliging Arsenal to wipe out a first-leg deficit for the second round in succession as they chase back-to-back qualifications for the UEFA Europa League quarter-finals.
• Arsenal cruised through to the knockout phase from Group E, dropping just two points as they qualified with two games to spare, but they had a scare in the round of 32, BATE Borisov defeating them 1-0 in Belarus before the Londoners turned the tie around with a 3-0 second-leg success.
• Rennes recovered from three successive defeats to take Group K's runners-up spot behind Dynamo Kyiv thanks to victories at Jablonec (1-0) and – in a must-win decider – at home to Astana on matchday six (2-0). They then caused an upset by defeating Group G winners Real Betis in the round of 32, winning 3-1 in Seville after a 3-3 home draw.
• The clubs' first meeting proved eventful as a raucous Roazhon Park crowd roared Rennes to a famous victory after they had conceded an early goal to Alex Iwobi. The turning point was Sokratis Papastathopoulos's 41st-minute red card, which was immediately punished by a sumptuous equaliser from Benjamin Bourigeaud. An own goal from Nacho Monreal and Ismaïla Sarr's diving header, both in the second half, put the Ligue 1 side in control of the tie while also inflicting on the visitors a first away defeat in France.
• This is Arsenal's 26th UEFA fixture against opponents from France, and their 13th at home, where they have been victorious in only five of the previous 12, losing three. The most recent visit from a Ligue 1 club brought a 2-2 draw against Paris Saint-Germain in the 2016/17 UEFA Champions League group stage.
• Arsenal have won four of their five two-legged UEFA competition ties against French opposition, including two – against Nantes and Lens – en route to the 1999/2000 UEFA Cup final, but they lost the most recent, going down on away goals to Monaco in the 2014/15 UEFA Champions League round of 16 (1-3 home, 2-0 away).
• Rennes' sole previous experience of English opposition before the first leg of this tie was a 2001 UEFA Intertoto Cup semi-final against Aston Villa that they lost on away goals after winning the first leg in Brittany (2-1 home, 0-1 away).
• The Gunners finished sixth in the 2017/18 Premier League – their lowest final placing under Arsène Wenger in his swansong season as manager after 22 years. It earned them a second successive qualification for the UEFA Europa League group stage.
• UEFA Champions League ever-presents for 19 successive seasons until last term, Arsenal reached the UEFA Europa League semi-finals at the first attempt, going out to eventual winners Atlético Madrid. This season they breezed through their group, an opening 4-2 win at home to Vorskla Poltava preceding four wins and a draw in which they conceded no further goals. That competition record-equalling run of five clean sheets ended at BATE, but an own goal and headers from defenders Shkodran Mustafi and Papastathopoulos secured a 3-0 home win and progress.
• Arsenal's one previous UEFA Europa League round of 16 tie came last season against AC Milan, Wenger's side progressing 5-1 on aggregate after winning the away first leg 2-0. It was the first time in eight years that the Gunners had won a European tie in the round of 16 following seven successive eliminations from that stage of the UEFA Champions League, including that one by Monaco in 2014/15.
• The 1999/2000 UEFA Cup runners-up picked up seven points at home in this season's group stage. The round of 32 victory over BATE finally brought to an end a six-year sequence in which Arsenal had lost their first European home fixture of the spring and means their home record in two UEFA Europa League campaigns is now W7 D3 L1, with 26 goals scored and eight conceded.
• Arsenal have won only three of the 13 UEFA competition ties in which they were defeated away in the first leg, most recently overcoming BATE in this season's round of 32. On the one occasion that they lost the first away leg 3-1, against Bayern München in the 2004/05 UEFA Champions League round of 16, they were eliminated despite a 1-0 second-leg victory at their old Highbury home.
• Rennes earned their first ever qualifying exemption for the group stage of a major UEFA competition by finishing fifth in Ligue 1 last season.
• They have competed in the UEFA Europa League proper once before, in 2011/12, after coming through two qualifying rounds, but went out in the group stage after losing all three away fixtures and drawing all three at home – against Atlético Madrid, Celtic and Udinese. That was Rennes' last European campaign before this one.
• Rennes participated twice in the UEFA Cup group stage, in 2005/06 and 2007/08, but were winless in those too (D2 L6). They finally recorded their first group win by defeating Jablonec 2-1 at home on matchday one this season thanks to a last-minute penalty.
• It was also against Jablonec, with a 1-0 win in the Czech Republic on matchday five, that Rennes ended an eight-match losing streak on their European travels outside the summer months – a run lasting over 11 years. They made it successive away wins with that 3-1 triumph at Betis.
• Rennes have won four of the six UEFA competition ties in which they held a first-leg lead going into the away fixture. They have been 3-1 winners at home once before in the first leg and it proved sufficient to win their 2005/06 UEFA Cup first-round tie against Osasuna, the second leg in Pamplona ending 0-0.
Links and trivia
• Arsenal's former Czech Republic international goalkeeper Petr Čech played for Rennes from 2002–04.
• Current Rennes 'keeper Tomáš Koubek is also a Czech international.
• Several Arsenal players have been affiliated to French clubs: Laurent Koscielny (Guingamp 2004–07, Tours 2007–09, Lorient 2009–10), Stephan Lichtsteiner (Lille 2005–08), Pierre–Emerick Aubameyang (Dijon 2008–09, Lille 2009–10, Monaco 2010–11, Saint–Etienne 2011–13), Alexandre Lacazette (Lyon 2010–17) and Matteo Guendouzi (Lorient 2016–18).
• Aubameyang provided the assist for St-Étienne's winning goal against Rennes in the 2013 French League Cup final at the Stade de France (1-0).
• Two Rennes players have represented Premier League clubs: Hatem Ben Arfa (Newcastle 2010–14, Hull 2014–15) and M'Baye Niang (Watford 2017).
• Arsenal manager Unai Emery was the Paris Saint-Germain coach between 2016 and 2018, when Ben Arfa was also at the club. Emery lost his penultimate game as Paris coach at home to Rennes (0-2) on 12 May 2018.
• Arsenal are one of four clubs participating in the UEFA Europa League round of 16 for the second successive season, alongside Dynamo Kyiv, Zenit and fellow 2017/18 semi-finalists Salzburg.
• Rennes are one of four clubs involved in this round of 16 who have never previously participated at this juncture of the UEFA Europa League; Eintracht Frankfurt, Dinamo Zagreb and Slavia Praha are the others.
• In addition to keeping the most clean sheets in this season's group stage (five), Arsenal conceded the joint fewest goals (two) along with Betis in Group F.
• The Gunners have used 30 players in the competition – more than any other club.
• Arsenal moved into fourth place in the Premier League on Sunday with a 2-0 home win against Manchester United – the visitors' first league defeat under caretaker manager Ole Gunnar Solskjær.
• Rennes have not played any away fixtures since their round of 32 win at Betis; they have been in action four times at home since then.
• Arsenal's record in four UEFA penalty shoot-outs is W2 L2:
4-5 v Valencia, 1979/80 European Cup Winners' Cup final
3-2 v Sampdoria, 1994/95 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup semi-final
1-4 v Galatasaray, 1999/2000 UEFA Cup final
7-6 v Roma, 2008/09 UEFA Champions League round of 16
• Rennes's record in one UEFA penalty shoot-out is W1 L0:
10-9 v Tavriya Simferopol, 2008 UEFA Intertoto Cup third round
• After two years with Paris Saint-Germain that yielded seven domestic trophies, Unai Emery was appointed as Arsenal manager in May 2018, replacing the long-serving Wenger. The Spaniard oversaw Sevilla's historic hat-trick of successes in the UEFA Europa League from 2013/14 to 2015/16, having assumed control following a four-year tenure at Valencia and a brief stint at Spartak Moskva. He has been in charge of more UEFA Europa League games than any other coach, this being his 69th.
• There was a change of coach at Rennes on 3 December with the dismissal of Sabri Lamouchi. His place was initially taken on an interim basis by reserve team boss Julien Stéphan, whose first two Ligue 1 matches in charge both resulted in 2-0 wins, prompting the club to give him a deal until the end of the season on 12 December, the day before he led the club past Astana into the UEFA Europa League round of 32. He is the son of Guy Stéphan, the assistant coach to Didier Deschamps of reigning world champions France.