Arsene Wenger is not yet willing to rule Arsenal midfielder and Wembley specialist Aaron Ramsey out of the forthcoming Carabao Cup final, while he believes Mesut Ozil should be fit for Sunday's (25 February) eagerly-anticipated meeting with Premier League leaders Manchester City after illness.
The 2017-18 season has become an increasingly stop-start campaign for Ramsey, who missed the entire festive fixture schedule with a hamstring injury and also nursed a slight calf issue during the early throes of the season.
The 27-year-old netted a maiden Arsenal hat-trick on his last appearance for the club in a 5-1 top-flight thrashing of Everton on 3 February, only to be ruled out of the subsequent north London derby defeat to Tottenham Hotspur and the first leg of the Europa League last-32 tie against minnows Ostersunds FK.
Wenger, speaking ahead of that comfortable 3-0 victory in Sweden last week, described Ramsey's latest setback as a "sensitive case" and admitted that he was not moving forward in his recovery as quickly as expected.
He said the former Cardiff City prodigy "certainly" would not be in contention for either match against Ostersunds and stated that his availability for the Carabao Cup final would depend on his progress before then.
Several media outlets - including The Telegraph - reported on Tuesday [20 February] evening that Ramsey remained a major concern for Sunday, with his improvement described as "disappointingly gradual".
It was claimed that there remained hope that an intensive treatment programme would ensure that a player who has previously netted two FA Cup final goals for Arsenal at the home of English football might at least make the bench.
However, Ramsey trained with his teammates at London Colney on Wednesday [21 February] morning and Wenger revealed in a subsequent press conference that he was not discounting him just yet.
"He is not in the squad tomorrow [against Ostersunds]," he was quoted as saying by football.london. "He had a good training session but he's a bit short. We'll see how his evolution goes. I don't rule him out [of the final] yet, it depends how well he can improve his intensity."
Wenger also revealed, per the Evening Standard, that Ozil would not face Ostersunds as planned as the result of a sickness that left him bedridden on Monday and Tuesday, but believes he "should be OK" for the final.
Petr Cech's deputy David Ospina will start both matches, while January signing Henrikh Mkhitaryan - cup-tied against City - is set to feature tomorrow along with Danny Welbeck, who will once again lead the line.
That is due to the respective absences of record signing Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (ineligible) and Alexandre Lacazette, the latter of whom Wenger is optimistic will be in a position to return from injury earlier than expected. The Frenchman underwent an arthroscopy on his left knee on 13 February and was slated to miss between four to six weeks.
"He's doing well and I think he'll be ahead of recovery," Wenger said of his compatriot. "Overall his response is good."