Arsenal resume their Europa League campaign with a Round of 32 tie against Östersunds FK. First up, the away leg in Sweden where temperatures are expected to be in the mid-20’s at kickoff tomorrow. Östersunds has poked some fun at Arsenal about the weather, revealing their “new” changing rooms designed specifically for this match.
Igloo changing rooms aside, Östersunds have acquitted themselves well at home in the Europa League this season, compiling a 2-1-0 record in the group stage and going 3-0-0 in the qualification rounds. The Swedish side are managed by Englishman Graham Potter and led by the attacking duo of Saman Ghoddos and Alhaji Gero, who have each netted two goals in the competition thus far. For a more in-depth breakdown of Östersunds, be sure to check out our xGunners preview.
In news that should surprise no one, Arsenal have a number of injuries coming into the fixture. Aaron Ramsey’s groin injury is more serious than originally thought, and the Welshman will miss both legs of the Europa tie. Alexandre Lacazette had an arthroscopic procedure on his left knee and will be out 4-6 weeks. Jack Wilshere, Laurent Koscielny, and Petr Čech did not travel to Sweden.
The plethora of injuries, however, does not mean that Arsene Wenger will field a younger, less experienced side. The boss revealed his approach to the Europa League going forward earlier this week:
“I will play the normal team because it’s one of the opportunities we have, especially because we don’t play in the [FA Cup] this season. There’s no reason why I should rest players.”
The approach makes sense. Arsenal do not have a game this coming weekend and do not play again the Premier League until March 1st. The loss to Tottenham hurt Arsenal’s already slim chances of finishing in the top 4. The Europa League is the club’s best shot at returning to the Champions League. But, in what can only be described as typical Arsenal luck, this year’s competition is one of the strongest ever.
So what will side look like for Arsene Wenger given all the injuries? My prediction, 4-2-3-1: Ospina, Monreal, Mustafi, Holding, Bellerín, Xhaka, Elneny, Mkhitaryan, Özil, Iwobi, Welbeck.
Reminder, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is cup tied and cannot play for Arsenal in the Europa League.
WHAT: Arsenal at Östersunds FK
WHERE: Jämtkraft Arena, Östersund, Sweden
WHEN: Thursday, February 15, 10 AM PT | 1 PM ET | 6 PM BT
US TV: FS2. Streaming on both FOX Sports Go and WatchESPN.
For all your international viewing/streaming needs, check out livesoccer.tv. Please do not discuss links to illegal streams here.