Matteo Guendouzi says Arsenal cannot count qualifying after shock Rennes defeat


Matteo Guendouzi has warned Arsenal that there is no such thing as a favourites tag after their humbling 3-1 defeat away to Rennes in the Europa League last-16.

Unai Emery’s side fell apart in Brittany after Sokratis Papastathopoulos’ first-half sending off for two bookable offences, having taken an early lead through Alex Iwobi.

Benjamin Bourigeaud and Ismaila Sarr then scored either side of a Nacho Monreal own goal to give mid-table Ligue Un side Rennes genuine hopes of reaching the quarter-finals of a European competition for the first time in their history.

Julien Stéphan, the Rennes manager, said after the final whistle that Arsenal were still favourites to progress ahead of next Thursday’s return leg.

But Guendouzi believes Thursday’s defeat proved Arsenal cannot be complacent about their chances and must produce a much-improved performance at the Emirates.

“There’s no such thing as favourites,” he said. “It’s one team against another. We have to stay strong mentally. 

“We knew that after the red card it would be very difficult, especially being away from home. Then the scored straight after that, which put us in a bit of trouble. 

“We didn’t do what was needed in the second half. But it’s only half time in the tie and they still have to come to our place. We’re very strong at home. And I believe in my team, my club and our staff.”

On Rennes, Guendouzi added: “They’re a good team. Beating Betis [in the previous round] is no small feat. But the second leg will be different. It will be very intense and we’re going to do our utmost to put in a big performance.”

Before the return leg, Arsenal welcome in-form Manchester United to the Emirates on Sunday afternoon, just three days after playing the best part of 50 minutes with 10 men.

United’s visit will be Arsenal’s third fixture in eight days, coming after the trip to Rennes and a north London derby, but Guendouzi believes he and his team-mates can cope with their gruelling schedule.

“We know the fixture list isn’t favourable but we worked hard to prepare for it,” he said. “We played well at Spurs and now we’ll get our heads down and focus on getting ready to take on United.”

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