Rennes manager Julien Stephan says he’s ‘certain’ Hatem Ben Arfa will have a great match against Arsenal on Thursday night, calling the 31-year-old a champion.

Granit Xhaka v PSG
Arsenal’s Swiss midfielder Granit Xhaka (L) tackles Paris Saint-Germain’s French forward Hatem Ben Arfa (R) during the UEFA Champions League group A football match between Arsenal and Paris Saint-Germain at the Emirates Stadium in London on November 23, 2016. / AFP / Justin TALLIS

Speaking in his press conference ahead of the match, Julien Stephan gave his thoughts on how Ben Arfa will perform against the Gunners, saying: “Champions always put in a shift in these types of games. I am certain that Hatem Ben Arfa will have a great match tomorrow.”

For those who aren’t aware, the reason for the extra attention on the French winger is that he previously played for Paris Saint-Germain under Unai Emery. After 32 appearances in his first season playing for the Arsenal head coach, Ben Arfa then played zero times in the entire 2017/18 campaign.

Stephan insisted all that is behind the player now though, saying the former Newcastle United man will be able to handle it without his manager’s help.

“It is a thing of the past. Hatem has a lot of experience, he’ll be able to handle it in a very smart way. We did not need to talk about it together and there are plenty of other topics to talk about before talking about that.”

Ben Arfa has a poor record against Arsenal in his career so far. In five games, he’s been on the losing side three times and played in two draws. He does have one goal against the Gunners, which gave Newcastle the lead for a total of one minute before Arsenal equalised and went on to win the match.

As a result, if he suddenly turns up against Unai Emery’s side for the first time in his career on Thursday, we’ll all know exactly why that is. Hopefully, the defence can keep him quiet.