EUROPA LEAGUE: Rennes v Arsenal ‘Engouement sans precedent’ – an unprecedented craze

Stade Rennes fans. PA

Stade Rennes fans. PA - Credit: PA Archive/PA Images

Arsenal have a pivotal week coming up in their bid to qualify for next season’s Champions League with crucial matches against Rennes in France and Manchester United at the Emirates on Sunday.

Stade Rennes fans in the stands. PA

Stade Rennes fans in the stands. PA - Credit: PA Archive/PA Images

Unai Emery’s side face the Brittany-based outfit who sit in tenth place in Ligue 1 having qualified for this stage by edging past Real Betis 6-4 on aggregate, grabbing an excellent 3-1 victory at the Benito Villamarin in the second leg after a 3-3 draw in the first leg of the round of 32.

Rennes boss Julien Stephan has guided Les Rouges et Noirs have won two out of their last four league matches, 2-0 against Orleans, and a 3-0 victory over St Etienne sandwiched between a 2-0 defeat at Reims and a 1-1 draw against giants Marseille at the Roazhon.

Roazhon Park’s capacity is 29,778, but their record attendance is 29,490, for a match against Marseille in 2005. However seasoned observers are expecting the match to break that record.

Rennes received 90,000 requests for the final 8,000 tickets available last week. As a result they decided to sell the tickets on a first come, first served basis on Saturday morning – a move which resulted in thousands of French football fans queuing through the night in a bid to snap up the coveted remaining sales.

Europa League Trophy

Europa League Trophy - Credit: DPA Germany

Such has been the demand for tickets the club’s website described it as: ‘Engouement sans precedent’ – an unprecedented craze.

Approximately 1,600 Arsenal fans are set to travel with many unhappy the tie against Rennes was switched shortly after the draw to avoid a clash with Chelsea’s match against Dynamo Kiev.

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Arsenal and Chelsea were originally both set to play home games today but Arsenal said their tie was switched because of ‘Uefa’s city-clash rule’ with the Gunners now at home in the second leg on March 14. Many fans say they are now facing charges to change flights and bookings.

In response to a question from the Islington Gazette on whether UEFA had let Arsenal fans down, Emery replied: “I don’t know. It’s important to help the supporters, to make it easy for them to stay with us. But I don’t know more.”

Three days after their trip to Brittany Emery’s side face Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Red Devils having won four of their previous five league matches the visitors will be a difficult opponent after already triumphing in North London in the FA Cup fourth round back in January.

Emery’s side have won four of their last six matches including easing past BATE Borisov 3-1 on aggregate after overturning a 1-0 loss in Belarus on Valentine’s Day with an emphatic 3-0 win at the Emirates a week later.

With Arsenal a single point behind Manchester United, who occupy fourth place, Sunday’s clash between the pair at the Emirates is a genuine six-pointer.

For live updates from the match at Rennes and the Emirates follow Arsenal reporter Layth on Twitter @laythy29.