MESUT OZIL will play his first Europa League tie in eight years tonight as Arsene Wenger admits he is under pressure to win the competition.
So he has abandoned his policy of playing his second string team in the Europa League and turned to his big guns against Swedish minnows Ostersunds this evening.
And that means £350,000-a-week Ozil being ordered to put in a shift in sub-Arctic conditions on an artificial pitch in front of just 8,000 fans.
The German superstar has become accustomed to lording it in the Champions League ever since he signed for Real Madrid.
His last involvement in the Europa League was with Werder Bremen back in March 2010 but Wenger confirmed: “Mesut has travelled and he will start his first game in the competition.
“No matter where we are in the League, we try to win the Europa League. But now the pressure to go as far as we can is higher.
“We are now in the direct knock-out stage of the tournament and the risk is higher. So we are playing a more experienced team than we did before.
“We have no game over the weekend and it’s important to keep our players at a competitive level.”
New signing Henrikh Mkhitaryan will also start against an Ostersunds team whose League season finished three months ago.
But Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere and Laurent Koscielny have all remained in London while Alexander Lacazette has been ruled out until April after undergoing a knee operation this week.
Wenger admitted: “Ramsey is a sensitive case because I expected him to be further in his recovery from the groin problem and he doesn’t move forward as quickly as we thought he would,
“He will certainly not be available for the return game against Ostersunds next week and I don’t know if he will be fit for the Carabao Cup final.
“Koscielny has had a problem with his Achilles and I wanted to rest Wilshere because he was severely sick before the game against Spurs and I left him behind as a precaution.”
With several feet of snow covering the roads around the Jamtkraft Arena, conditions are set to test Arsenal’s mettle this evening.
Ostersunds’ English boss Graham Potter says: “Every club in Europe wants to use their home advantage as best as they can and ours is an 8,000-seater stadium in the north of Sweden.
“But the cold or the pitch doesn’t win you a game. We have to play well and do the things we are good at.
“People have compared this to an FA Cup third round tie against a non-League team, but the minnows have not usually beaten Galatasaray, PAOK or Hertha Berlin to get there.”
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Wenger admits: “I don’t think the temperature will be a big problem because it’s not that different to what we have in London.
“But we have to adapt quickly to the pitch because we haven’t practiced on this kind of surface.
“I wasn’t tempted to train here because it would have really disturbed the way we wanted to prepare for the game so we must not make too big a problem of it.”