London, Thursday @PeopleSports11
Arsenal are in Sweden to face Ostersunds on Thursday with Europa League glory looking the most likely route back into the Champions League for Arsene Wenger’s men. A damaging north London derby defeat against Tottenham on Saturday has seriously dented Arsenal’s hopes of finishing in the top four of the Premier League.
While the Gunners look set to miss out on the top four for the second season running, Wenger could follow the example Manchester United set last season and seek to lift the Europa League as a means of qualifying for Europe’s elite club competition.
But there is still a long way to go for Arsenal as they enter the round of 32, with a two-legged tie against Swedish side Ostersunds standing between them and the last-16.
Wenger has played a weakened team in Europe’s second tier competition this term, but will abandon that policy in Sweden this week as Arsenal do not have a weekend game after being knocked out of the FA Cup at Nottingham Forest.
Instead, they play the return leg at Emirates Stadium on Thursday 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,” he said. Wenger must contend with one enforced change as club-record £56million record signing Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is ineligible due to the possibility of Arsenal still being able to face his former club Borussia Dortmund in the knockout rounds.
That leaves Wenger with a striker’s headache as Alexandre Lacazette will be out of action for up to six weeks after undergoing an operation on his left knee on Tuesday. -AGENCIES