This match might fall under the radar a bit.
We go into our second leg tie versus Ostersunds with a 3-0 advantage and the boost of playing at The Emirates, where our record is strong.
Then there is the small matter of this Sunday’s Carabao Cup Final versus Manchester City representing our best chance for silverware this season.
So we can be forgiven for placing less emphasis on this game.
Still, we’re in action and that means we get the chance to see our team in action, and our lineup will include vast changes from the first leg.
Mesut Ozil and Aaron Ramsey have been confirmed by Arsene Wenger to be missing out, and both face a race to be fit for the Carabao Cup Final with illness and injury doubts respectively.
Danny Welbeck will again take the striking berth with Pierre Emerick Aubameyang cup-tied and Alexandre Lacazette injured for the next few weeks. We could also see a bigger cameo for Eddie Nketiah, with little options up top.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan will feature as he is cup-tied for this Sunday’s final, but with Ramsey out, there will be four players vying for two spots.
Mohamed Elneny, Jo Willock, Ainslie Maitland-Niles and Jack Wilshere will be up for playing, but with the vital tie against City so close, Jack Wilshere could miss out, especially with Ramsey so doubtful too.
Maitland-Niles played well in his preferred spot in the centre, but he could find himself again in a wing-back spot as Hector Bellerin could be rested. The same goes for Koscielny and Mustafi, but we have the likes of Holding, Chambers and Mertesacker as options to come in.
Ostersunds gave us the perfect headstart in the first forty-five minutes of the first leg. With their results at home being favourable, most expected us to struggle, but the frozen 3g pitch was no match for our attack. The second half showed what the Swedish are capable of, and if the late penalty from Petterson had crept in rather than have been saved by Ospina, then an early goal in this game could have been very disruptive.
As it is though, even a typical slow start from our boys would have to be a real nightmare for us to give Ostersunds a sniff of a comeback. As it is, Wenger can’t really win. If he takes the professional route and sees out a simple game but doesn’t thrash Ostersunds, then we took them lightly. If we smash them with a strong side, then it was bound to happen and it is nothing extraordinary.
There are some strong sides left in this competition, and we will know more when the draw for the next round is made. We should be aiming to win it, but such is the gap in the Premier League between us and the top4, we need to put some work in to make sure this isn’t the worst season yet under Wenger.
So, let’s go for it and hope this game sees goals (for us of course) and no injuries.
Predicted lineup – Ospina, Maitland-Niles, Chambers, Mertesacker, Kolasinac, Elneny, Willock, Nelson, Wilshere, Mkhitaryan, Welbeck
Predicted scoreline – 2-1 to The Arsenal. #UTA