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Rennes' Break 'Not an Excuse' for Arsenal in Europa League, Says Unai Emery

Rory Marsden@@roomarsdenFeatured ColumnistMarch 7, 2019

Arsenal's Spanish head coach Unai Emery gestures on the touchline during the English Premier League football match between Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal at Wembley Stadium in London, on March 2, 2019. (Photo by Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No video emulation. Social media in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No use in betting publications, games or single club/league/player publications. /         (Photo credit should read DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images)
DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/Getty Images

Unai Emery has said that Arsenal's packed schedule, and Rennes' recent weekend off, cannot be used as an excuse by the Gunners in their UEFA Europa League last-16 first leg on Thursday.

Rennes have had a busy season as they have also gone deep in the Coupe de France. But they were given more than a week to prepare for Thursday's clash by the French Football Federation, who postponed their Saturday fixture with Nimes.

Arsenal, meanwhile, have beaten Bournemouth 5-1 and drawn 1-1 with Tottenham Hotspur in the last eight days, and they host Manchester United at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday.

Emery said, though, that his side cannot use the schedule as an excuse if they put in a bad performance at Roazhon Park, per Reuters (h/t ESPN FC): 

"It's not an excuse for us. We have the habit to play a lot of matches week-by-week. We rested on Sunday. We're starting to work Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Tomorrow we will be OK to play, every player.

"The Premier League decided the schedule for our matches. I respect them. We adapted, our adaptation is preparing [for] the matches with the days we can have."

Arsenal played away in the first leg of their last-32 tie against BATE Borisov and lost 1-0.

They were able to turn the tie around at the Emirates, but another loss on the road to Rennes would not be a good result for Arsenal.

The least the Gunners will be looking for is likely a score draw since away goals can be crucial in the knockout rounds of the Europa League.

Emery will take heart from the fact Arsenal went to Wembley Stadium in their last match and were unfortunate to leave without all three points:

B/R Football @brfootball

74' Kane scores penalty 90' Lloris saves penalty 95' Torreira sent off Spurs’ first draw of the season is a wild one 🔥 https://t.co/loCsVftYJv

Spurs are a better side than Rennes, who sit 10th in Ligue 1, and if Arsenal can produce a similar performance to the one at Wembley on Saturday, they should get a positive result in Brittany. 

Arsenal are rightly one of the favourites to go all the way this season in the Europa League.

With the Premier League top-four battle incredibly tight, it could become their best route to UEFA Champions League football next season.

Emery is a Europa League expert having won the tournament three times in succession with Sevilla, and he will clearly accept nothing other than a strong performance on Thursday.   

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