Though Arsene Wenger may not agree, there is little doubt the Europa League is emerging as Arsenal's best chance to qualify for next season's Champions League.

Seven games separate the north Londoners - who are eight points adrift of the Premier League to four - from following Manchester United by reaching Europe's premier club competition via the trapdoor.

Victory over two legs against Swedish minnows Ostersunds was achieved with a defeat in the second leg - they were the lowest ranked team to progress to the last-32 – and their next challenge promises to be much tougher.

Helped by a series of sides dropping down from the Champions League ahead of the last round, the round of 16 is full of teams with genuine pedigree at this level.

There are Champions League finalists from three of the past five seasons in Atletico Madrid and Borussia Dortmund, while continental heavyweights AC Milan are also on the prowl.

But who should Arsenal be fearful of and which sides provide the easiest route to the quarter-finals? IBTimes UK attempts to guide you through.

When and where is the last 16 draw?

The draw begins at 13:00CET [12pm GMT] on Friday 23 February and will take place at Uefa headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland.

When are the last-16 ties played?

The matches to determine the last eight will be played next month, with the first legs scheduled for 8 March and the return games for 15 March. The quarter-final draw will then take place on Friday, 16 March.

How does the draw work?

Previous draws have seen sides kept apart by their seeding – determined by their Uefa coefficient – having qualified from the same group or coming from the same country.

However, there are no such parameters this time around with an open draw meaning teams who have already played each other in the competition or hail from the same nation can be drawn against one another.

Teams will be drawn one at a time, with those drawn first home in the first leg and the second side home in the second leg.

Who is in the draw?

Red Bull Salzburg, Viktoria Plzeň, Arsenal, Lyon, Marseille, Borussia Dortmund, RB Leipzig, Lazio, AC Milan, Sporting CP, CSKA Moscow, Lokomotiv Moscow, Zenit Saint Petersburg, Athletic Bilbao, Atlético Madrid, Dynamo Kyiv

Best case scenario for Arsenal? Lokomotiv Moscow

Though RB Leipzig are the lowest ranked side in Uefa's coefficient remaining in the competition, Lokomotiv are the weakest side of the 16 to progress to this stage.

After finishing top of arguably the weakest group in the tournament, the Russians stunned Ligue 1 Nice over two legs.

Manuel Fernandes netted a hat-trick in France to secure a 3-2 win, before Igor Denisov's only goal settled the home leg.

Seventy-year-old Yuri Semin's side finished eighth in the league last year, with their qualification for the Europa League only coming via winning the Russian Cup.

They are top of the division and on course for the title and a return to Champions League this season, yet their success in Europe in recent seasons is almost non-existent.

There are a handful of familiar faces among the Lokomotiv squad, with their captain Vedran Corluka formerly of Tottenham Hotspur, while striker Eder was the match-winner for Portugal in the European Championship final in 2016.

Both sides have previously met just twice, in the 2003 Champions League when a stalemate in Moscow was followed by a 2-0 win for Arsenal thanks to goals from Robert Pires and Freddie Ljungberg.

Worst case scenario for Arsenal? Atletico Madrid

Among the heavyweight sides which the Gunners could be paired with, it is hard to ignore Diego Simeone's men as the chief threat to their hopes of progress in the competition.

Los Colchoneros have finished as runners-up in the Champions League in two of the last four years and have a good recent record in this competition too having won it in 2010 and 2012.

Though they are off the pace in the La Liga title race – Barcelona are seven points ahead with 14 games left – they have a seven-point cushion of their own over city rivals Real Madrid and are destined to finish in the top three for a fifth campaign in a row.

Antoine Griezmann might steal all the headlines as Atletico's marquee player, but Arsenal will be weary of Diego Costa's previous success against the north Londoners.

He netted three goals in six appearances against Arsenal while at Chelsea, coming out on the winning side of four occasions, but it was his theatrics and ability to wind up his rivals which saw him become a derided figure among the 13-time FA Cup winners.

If the pair were to be drawn together it would set up the first ever competitive meetings between the clubs. Arsenal and Atletico did meet once in The Emirates Cup in 2009, with Andrey Arshavin scoring twice in a 2-1 win for the Premier League outfit.

Arsene Wenger
Wenger is awaiting the outcome of the last-16 draw. Getty Images