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Ostersunds v Arsenal: Gunners Aim to End Potter's European Run

As the bridge between Arsenal and the top 4 begins to widen, a very scary thought has emerged - if Arsenal fail to progress in the Europa League, their season will potentially be over following the League Cup Final on February 25th against Manchester City. Arsene Wenger will be doing everything in his power to stop this from being the case.Arsenal will face Ostersund and their English manager Graham Potter in the last 32 of the Europa League on Thursday. The draw made in December paired Wenger’s men with the Swedish side, who the former Southampton and York defender Potter has taken from the fourth division to the top-ranked Allsvenskan in the short space of only six years.The story of Potter - a manager who has deservedly been compared to Roy Hodgson (who himself spent some of his formative managerial years in Scandinavia) - is without doubt the greatest story of the tie. When Potter took over Ostersund in the lower echelons of Swedish football, he surely could not have fathomed ever playing host to one of the biggest clubs in his country in a European knock-out round just a few years later - but that is how it has played out. And while this game at the Jämtkraft Arena will be perhaps the biggest event in the history of Ostersund, that's not to take away from their extremely impressive pedigree in this European campaign so far. They've knocked out Turkish Super-Club Galatasaray (who applauded the Swedish minnows off the field), beaten Hertha Berlin and drawn with Athletic Bilbao, on their way to the last 32 of the Europa League - all clubs that would represent a tough test for any team.Arsenal will be expecting a game like nothing else they've experienced this season, at a snowy ground which holds only 9,000, and featuring a squad which the 42-year-old manager has galvanised through a variety of methods – from his players putting on a ballet production of Swan Lake for the town, singing on stage and writing a book together. He's a unique character that has rightly begun getting recognition for his achievements, including recently being linked with the vacant Stoke City job before it was given to Paul Lambert. One expects these links won't cease anytime soon - and if he somehow pulls off a win against the Gunners, you can bet your bottom dollar he will be one of the names batted around to take over the reigns at Arsenal.Amazingly, Ostersund didn't exist as a club when Wenger took the reigns at Arsenal in 1996 (the club were founded on the Halloween of the same year). The veteran manager will be paying this little heed when he brings his side to Sweden, and has admitted that he will be playing a full-strength team for the fixture. One man who won't be making an appearance is striker Alexandre Lacazette. With the arrival and introduction to the team of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, this match represented a great opportunity for the Summer arrival from Lyon to stake a claim for his position in the starting eleven on a weekly basis, but alas, it isn't to be - the Arsenal website report that the forward will be out for the match and at least the next 4-6 weeks after arthroscopy on his left knee on Tuesday morning.Aubameyang himself won't be appearing either, as he is cup tied as he was named in the Borussia Dortmund squad for the Europa League. Even though the player didn't feature in the competition he is ineligible to play, unfortunately.Thankfully, this isn't the case with Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who through a sort-of loophole in the rules, is allowed to play in the competition despite featuring for Manchester United in the Champions League in the first half of the season. Leading the line in the stead of Aubameyang and Lacazette will be Danny Welbeck, who will be relishing an opportunity to show what he can do amongst the strong competition for his position, as he returns from injury. The Englishman will be hoping to get some good striking opportunities in Sweden, because when he finds himself in a good position, he is well capable of finishing.Another player who likely won't be featuring, however, is the hat-trick hero against Everton Aaron Ramsey, who missed the North London derby with a groin problem. The same is expected to be the case in this fixture.The Swedish football season ended in November, so Ostersund find themselves in the precarious position of this game feeling like a kind-of pre-season tie for them. With so much emphasis put on the manager for this tie, it can be easy to forget about Ostersund's players - the players who's performances have gotten them to this stage of the competition against the odds; no mean feat. Potter isn't the only Englishman involved with the team - two of Ostersund's midfielders hail from England - 25-year-old Jamie Hopcutt and 26-year-old Curtis Edwards. The two players have amassed a large number of appearances for the side, and will be looking forward to facing up against one of the biggest teams from their home country. In terms of goal-scoring threats, fowards Alhaji Gero and Saman Ghoddos will be looking to find the headlines with their exploits, and help Ostersund to a good result in their home leg of this tie.If Arsenal are to progress to further rounds, there may be some very daunting fixtures on the cards, with teams such as Borussia Dortmund, Napoli and Atletico Madrid still in contention for the trophy. For now, though, thoughts must remain on Potter's side, and knowing that a good result away from home would make for an excellent chance of progression in front of the Emirates crowd back in North London. Arsenal travel to Ostersund for the first leg of the Europa League Round of 32 fixtures, with kick-off scheduled for 6pm.