Pundit view: Pires backs Arsenal to win Europa League

Robert Pires believes Arsenal can still win the Europa League, per Marca.

The Gunners lost 3-1 to Rennes in the first leg in France and need to win 2-0 in north London to have any hope of qualifying for the quarter-finals.

What’s he said?

A week of shocks in the Champions League has given Pires hope of a stirring comeback in north London.

Ajax thumped Real Madrid, Manchester United turned around a 2-0 defeat to PSG in France and Juventus beat Atletico Madrid after also going down 2-0 in the first leg.

And Pires thinks Arsenal have what it takes to qualify for the last-eight and subsequently go all the way in the competition.

Speaking to Marca, he said: “I’m confident and positive, like the players. All of the players and Unai Emery know that they played bad against Rennes, but this is football. Maybe it’s because Rennes played well.

“The atmosphere was very good, the fans added pressure and unfortunately, Sokratis [Papastathopoulos] was sent off, but we have a second chance at home at the Emirates.

“It’s strange, but maybe after the Manchester United win, I have a good feeling. Anything is possible because when Arsenal play at home they can beat any team.”

Asked about Emery’s reign thus far, Pires added: “I think he is doing well because they’re in the top four and I think they can qualify for next season’s Champions League.

“I think, and I hope, that he can win the Europa League, as he won it three times with Sevilla. So he has a lot of experience and knows there is good quality and a good squad. I think he has built a good team and they are now ready to fight for the end of the season.”

Anything is possible

Usually, Pires might have been laughed out of the building.

But this round of European fixtures has shown that nigh-on anything is possible.

United performed a miracle comeback and Arsenal are looking to follow in their footsteps.

Their task is not quite as pronounced; Rennes are a mid-table Ligue 1 side – they lie eighth in the standings, 34 points behind PSG, the team United beat – and they do not have home advantage in the second leg.

Arsenal will expect to win and that momentum could take them far; they are one of the biggest hitters in the competition and Emery has proven experience of winning it.

Overcome Rennes and the path may well open up.