Ben Arfa will handle Emery reunion in 'smart way', says Rennes boss Stephan

The France international faces his former PSG coach for the first time since he was frozen out of the Ligue 1 champions by the Spaniard

Rennes winger Hatem Ben Arfa has been backed by his coach Julien Stephan to deliver an impressive performance when he faces off against his former boss Unai Emery in Thursday’s Europa League clash with Arsenal.

The France international formerly played under the Gunners boss at Paris Saint-Germain, where he found himself frozen out of the squad, with the player taking to social media to mark one year since his previous appearance by posing with a birthday cake.

It was later revealed by his solicitor Jean-Jacques Bertrand that he was seeking hefty compensation after he found himself an outcast at the Ligue 1 champions.

He has since recovered following his arrival at Rennes, delivering five goals in 18 top-flight appearances for his new club as well as netting twice in the Europa League.

With a reunion now looming in this week’s s round of 16 tie at Roazhon Park, Stephan suggested Ben Arfa will not be fazed by facing off with Emery for the first time since.

"Hatem has a lot of experience, he'll be able to handle it in a very smart way," the 38-year-old told reporters.

"We did not need to talk about it together and there are plenty of other topics to talk about before talking about that. It is Rennes against Arsenal in the Europa League, it is not Hatem against Emery.

"Champions are always present in this type of match and I'm sure Hatem will have a big game."

Emery was also asked about the part Ben Arfa will play when he appeared at his pre-match news conference.

"He is a very good player. He is playing with a big performance," the Spaniard told reporters.

"We know they have good organisation, good players. One is Ben Arfa, we need to control his quality and skills.

"The two matches they played against Real Betis he played very well with a big performance.

"Not only Ben Arfa, they have [Ismaila] Sarr and good defensive players. Mostly Ben Arfa is very important for them."

The pair meet in their first-leg tie this week before they play the reverse on March 14 at the Emirates Stadium.