Premier League heavyweight, Arsenal host Swedish side, Ostersunds FK, this Thursday night, in the second leg of Round of 32 in the UEFA Europa League 2017/18.
Arsenal, who are considered as one of the favorites to win the competition, are the only English team remaining in the Europa League this season. On the other hand, Ostersunds FK are the first Swedish side to reach the knockout stages in the Europa League history.
The first leg of this tie was played at Jaemtkraft Arena, last Thursday, in which Arsenal ran out as 0-3 winners, giving themselves a massive lead to protect playing at home. A Pagagiannopoulos own goal in between goals from Nacho Monreal and Mesut Ozil in either half sealed an impressive win for Arsene Wenger and his men.While it would be unfair on the Swedish side to rule out a comeback against the gunners, the tie looks all but done and dusted.
The Gunners have found victory in four of their last seven matches in all competitions, losing the other three. Wenger’s men have failed to score in just one of those games, scoring 16 goals in total in the process.
Meanwhile, the first leg last week was only the second competitive game for Graham Potter’s Osterunds FK this year; they won the other game 3-0 against Trelleborgs FF in the Swedish Cup.
Arsenal ended their group stage with thirteen points from six games, winning four, drawing one and losing the other one match. Spurs are the only team to have won more points in the group stages of Europa League; 18 points in 2013/14 campaign.
Nine different players have scored for Arsenal in the competition this season, more goalscorers than any other team have had. Only Real Sociedad with 48, attempted more shots on target in the group stages of the competition than Arsenal who managed 40 shots on goal in the group stages.
This is the furthest that any Swedish side have reached in European competition since Helsingborg IF FC reached the Last 32 of the UEFA Cup in 2007/08, before losing to PSV. Ostersunds FK’s manager, Graham Potter, has won three of his six Europa League games as a manager excluding qualifying rounds. The only English managers to have won more in the competition are Roy Hodgson with 10, Steve McClaren with six and Alan Pardew with four wins.
The Round of 16 draws will take place on Friday, 23rd February.
Players To Watch:
Henrikh Mkhitaryan (Arsenal)
Henrikh Mkhitaryan scored in six of his last nine appearances for Manchester United in the UEFA Europa League previous season, including in the final against Ajax. The Armenian has provided four assists in his last three starts for Arsenal in all competitions.
— Arsenal FC (@Arsenal) February 21, 2018
Ken Sema (Ostersunds FK)
Only two players (Sergio Canales and Miralem Sulejmani) have created more chances in the Europa League campaign before the start of the knockout stage. Sema created 16 chances in the competition this season.
Arsene Wenger will have one eye on the EFL Cup final on Sunday, against Manchester City, and is expected to rest some of his key players in this game. However, Wenger is likely to be without three of his players; Aaron Ramsey is out with a groin injury, Alexandre Lacazette is set to be out for four to six weeks due to a knee injury, and long-term absentee Santi Cazorla is unlikely to feature this season.
No information is available.
Arsenal vs Ostersunds FK Lineup (Predicted XI)
Arsenal Lineup (4-2-3-1)
Defense: Chambers (RB), Holding (RCB), Mustafi (LCB), Maitland-Niles (LB)
Midfield: Elneny (CDM), Xhaka (CDM), Welbeck (LAM), Nelson (CAM), Iwobi (RAM)
Ostersunds Lineup (4-3-3)
Defense: Mukiibi (RB), Papagiannopoulos (RCB), Petterson (LCB), Widgren (LB)
Midfield: Edwards (RCM), Tekie (CM), Mensah (LCM)
Arsenal vs Ostersunds Prediction
With all due respect to Ostersunds, Arsenal are heaps and bounce ahead regarding footballing quality in comparison to the Swedish side. Miracles do happen in cup competitions, and Graham Potter’s men need nothing short of a miracle to get through to the Round of 16.
However, we do expect a much more competitive game in the second leg as compared to the first one given the speculation that Arsene Wenger will be tempted to rest his key players keeping the Sunday’s final against Man City in mind. Our prediction for this game is a 2-0 win for Arsenal.