Arsenal will attempt to improve their dismal away form this season in all competitions, and what better place to do so than the colder than cold Jamtkraft Arena, the home of opponents Ostersunds FK.
Strong squad for must win tie
After another disappointing away result in the North London derby at Wembley last Saturday, the Gunners are still looking for their first victory away from the Emirates Stadium in 2018.
With no fixture this weekend, Arsene Wenger is free to play his strongest XI possible, with only Jack Wilshere, Laurent Koscielny, Petr Cech and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang left at home.
Aaron Ramsey will also be missing in Sweden, after the Welshman was surprisingly missing in Saturday’s derby just a week after his hat-trick against Everton.
Speakng on Ramsey, Wenger said in his press conference: “It is a little bit sensitive case because we expected him to be a bit further in his development of the groin problem and he doesn’t move forward as quickly as we expected it.
“Today we would say that certainly he will not be available even for the next game against Ostersunds. Maybe for the cup final, we don’t know yet, it depends how he will progress from now.”
Wenger has also said that their currently league position had not influenced the squad selected to travel, despite the need for progression in the Europa League growing in importance with qualification for the Champions League through the top four looking increasingly unlikely.
“We go into direct knockout so of course the risk is higher. We are ambitious in the competition as well. So, yes, we are more experience than we were before.
“I would have done that anyway, no matter what happens in the league. We, of course, try to focus on the league but we would have brought an experience team here.”
From Solihull to Ostersund, Division 2 to Allsvenskan
Managed by Englishman Graham Potter, Ostersunds FK have had a meteoric rise. When Potter arrived in 2010, the club were playing in the forth tier of Swedish football.
After back-to-back promotions in the new mangers’ first two seasons, Ostersunds’ made it to the Allsvenskan, Sweden’s top tier, in 2015, and then in the 2016/17 season, they lifted the Swedish Cup to qualify for the Europa League.
Ahead of one of his side’s biggest games in European competition, Potter was asked about the condition of his team, whose league season doesn’t start till April.
“You never fully know because we have had one competitive match since the start of December. All I can judge is how the players are day by day, and how they are in training and in terms of their application.
“When I look back I think we have done quite well to get to this point. Still, it’s a completely different thing when you go and play Arsenal, who are looking to win the competition in terms of their path into the Champions League.”
The Ostersunds’ boss was also asked about whether the freezing temperature and their experience playing on the artificial pitch would be an advantage.
“I’m not sure (how Arsenal will approach it). I think every club in Europe wants to try and use their home advantage as best they can, that’s normal.
“Our advantage is an 8,000 seater stadium in the north of Sweden. Their advantage will be a slightly bigger stadium in a slightly bigger city. But it doesn’t really matter, we have to play well.
“The cold or the pitch doesnt’t win you a game, the players have to play well, we have to do the things that we are good at.”
Henrik Mkhitaryan is expected to make his European debut for Arsenal after starting the last two fixtures. David Ospina is expected to start in goal with Cech left out, while Danny Welbeck is in line to start up front with Alexandre Lacazette missing through injury and Aubameyang ineligible.
Potter has confirmed that Osterunds come into the match with a near full strength squad, with only midfielder Johan Bertilsson missing out due to a knee injury.