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.
😄 That look when you're available for selection again…
— Arsenal FC (@Arsenal) March 13, 2019
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.
“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.
— Stade Rennais F.C. (@staderennais) March 7, 2019
“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.”