Rennes manager Julien Stephan says being drawn against Arsenal makes their Europa League tie feel more like a Champions League clash.

Rennes’ French forward Hatem Ben Arfa (C) reacts with his teammates after scoring a goal during the French L1 football match between Rennes (SRFC) and Saint-Etienne (ASSE), on February 10, 2019, at the Roazhon Park in Rennes, northwestern France. (Photo by JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER / AFP / Getty Images)

After playing in the Champions League for 20 years running, dropping down to the Europa League for the last couple of seasons has been a new experience for Arsenal and their supporters.

Many at the club feel as if they should be competing in Europe’s top competition every year, and that’s clearly a sentiment shared by the manager of the opposition.

Julien Stephan said (via GFFN): “When we learnt on the plane on the way back from Seville that we were going to play Arsenal, I said to myself: look at that, we’re not playing a Europa League match, we’re playing a Champions’ League match instead!”

That view of the game has clearly influenced the way Rennes have approached it so far. They requested the postponement of their Ligue 1 match at the weekend to better prepare for Arsenal, and they received 90,000 requests for match tickets from their supporters.

Undoubtedly, the players will also treat the game like a cup final. They know the eyes of Europe will be on them for 90 minutes, and this is their chance to make an impression. We saw it with BATE Borisov in Belarus, Arsenal can’t afford to let up regardless of the competition or the opponent.

After a positive performance in a frustrating draw against Tottenham Hotspur at the weekend, the Gunners will hopefully be preparing to take that frustration out on their hosts on Thursday night. We’ll see.