Mesut Ozil will make a rare appearance in the Europa League on Thursday evening (15 February) and could even be handed the captain's armband as Arsenal contest the first leg of their last-32 tie against minnows Ostersunds FK in Sweden.

The German international - along with several of his first-choice teammates - has yet to feature in Europe's secondary club competition so far this term, with Arsene Wenger choosing to field a second-string team throughout the group stage campaign.

However, the manager has pledged to field his regular side for the knockout stages, with an eight-point gap to the Premier League's top four with only 11 matches remaining in 2017-18 meaning that a maiden Europa League triumph will likely represent Arsenal's best chance to return to the Champions League next term.

The Gunners also have no FA Cup commitments this weekend owing to their shock third-round defeat at Nottingham Forest and will no doubt be looking to take a sizable advantage back to north London for the second leg against Ostersunds that comes just three days before the Carabao Cup final clash with Manchester City.

While the likes of record signing Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (ineligible), Alexandre Lacazette (knee), Aaron Ramsey (groin) and Santi Cazorla (achilles) are all unavailable and the senior trio of Petr Cech, Laurent Koscielny and Jack Wilshere have been left at home, Ozil will start the match in freezing temperatures at the 9,000-capacity Jamtkraft Arena.

"Yes," Wenger told reporters at his pre-match press conference when asked if Ozil will start, per football.london. "He will play tomorrow. We want to do well in this competition. We played on Saturday [against Tottenham Hotspur], we play tomorrow night.

"Over the weekend we have no game. So we have one week without competition. It's important our players keep at the competitive level."

With regular skipper Per Mertesacker now mostly a peripheral figure as he edges closer to retirement, vice-captain Koscielny rested as he continues to manage a long-term achilles issue and Wilshere, who was handed the honour for the 2-1 defeat to Bournemouth last month, sick before the north London derby, Wenger admits he is not sure who will lead Arsenal on Thursday night.

Asked if Ozil could be chosen to don the armband, he replied: "It could be. I prefer a more defensive player most of the time. We'll see."

Mesut Ozil
Mesut Ozil will start for Arsenal against Ostersunds FK on Thursday evening Catherine Ivill/Getty Images