MX23RW : Tuesday, March 19 19:09:38

Lacazette suspension twist surprises Rennes boss Stephan

Lacazette suspension twist surprises Rennes boss Stephan
© Reuters
The French side holds a 3-1 lead over Arsenal going into the second leg of the last-16 clash at the Emirates Stadium.

Rennes manager Julien Stephan has expressed his surprise at the timing of UEFA's decision to reduce Alexandre Lacazette's suspension.

The Arsenal striker was due to complete a three-game European ban in the second leg of the Europa League last-16 tie with the French side on Thursday night for his red card against BATE Borisov in the last round.

The governing body, however, upheld an appeal 48 hours before the game, reducing the sanction to two matches, which means the Frenchman is available for the Thursday night clash at the Emirates Stadium.

Stephan was not expecting the decision to be made so close to the game,  considering it an added disadvantage after the legs were switched to avoid Arsenal's home fixture clashing with Chelsea last week.

"The timing is rather surprising for everyone involved," said Stephan, whose side hold a 3-1 lead. "We didn't think he would be included up until yesterday evening.

"They have decided to reduce his sanction from three to two games and that is great for him. Now we are going to have to prepare with that in mind.

"The first thing that was a bit strange was changing the first and second leg. This is now the second thing that has happened that changes.

"Hopefully, there will not be any more surprises and the referee tomorrow will be great."

Stephan admits his side's preparations have been hit by the fact they could now come up against the former Lyon striker.

"It changes a lot of things because with Lacazette they can play more formations, including the 3-5-2 with the two strikers, which they played against (Manchester) United," he added.

Arsenal v AFC Bournemouth – Premier League – Emirates Stadium
Lacazette has scored 14 goals for the Gunners this season. (Adam Davy/PA)

"Obviously his presence changes the facts, but we have got 24 hours to prepare ourselves.

"I have not wanted to create any debate, we weren't aware that they had appealed the decision.

"The red card had been given about a month ago, so it is a bit strange it has come 48 hours before the game, but it is what it is and we have to make do with it.

"We have got no time to waste with UEFA, we are here to concentrate on our game."

Holding a two-goal advantage puts Rennes in a strong position but Stephan insists the Ligue 1 side are not heading to the Emirates to defend what they have.

"We are here with the ambition to score at least one goal," Stephan added. "If we just want to defend we are going to be in a lot of trouble.

"We are not thinking about the result, we are going to go and try and play and show our strength on the pitch and create some problems for Arsenal, who will be obviously much stronger than they were in the first leg.

"It is up to us to put ourselves in the best positions to go and score a goal."


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Arsenal midfielder Mesut Ozil celebrates after scoring against Bournemouth in the Premier League on February 27, 2019
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Tables
TeamPWDLFAGDPTS
1Liverpool31237170185276
2Manchester CityMan City30242479215874
3Tottenham HotspurSpurs30201957322561
4Arsenal30186663392460
5Manchester UnitedMan Utd30177658401858
6Chelsea30176750331757
7Wolverhampton WanderersWolves30128103836244
8Watford30127114244-243
9West Ham UnitedWest Ham31126134146-542
10Leicester CityLeicester31125144043-341
11Everton31117134342140
12Bournemouth31115154356-1338
13Newcastle UnitedNewcastle3198143140-935
14Crystal Palace3096153641-533
15Brighton & Hove AlbionBrighton2996143242-1033
16Southampton3079143450-1630
17Burnley3186173559-2430
18Cardiff CityCardiff3084182757-3028
19Fulham3145222970-4117
20Huddersfield TownHuddersfield3135231857-3914

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