Henrikh Mkhitaryan Could Miss Europa League Final Because Of Security Fears
Arsenal will be travelling to Baku for the all-English Europa League final against Chelsea on 29 May but there's huge uncertainty over whether Henrikh Mkhitaryan will be aboard the trip to the capital of Azerbaijan.
And it all stems from Mkhitaryan's nationality. Armenians are not allowed to enter Azerbaijan because of the long-running conflict between the two countries, who have had no relations since the Nagorno-Karabakh war in 1994.
Arsenal were paired against Azerbaijan champions Qarabag in the group stage draw but Mkhitaryan himself made the call to not make the trip over security fears in October - with club officials unsure whether or not he'd be granted access if he boarded a flight from London.
Commenting on the absence, Qarabag manager Gurban Gurbanov said: "If Henrikh Mkhitaryan would come to Azerbaijan it is not the first time - a lot of Armenian sportsmen came to Azerbaijan but it is the choice of Arsenal that they didn't send him.
"Arsenal may be afraid that in front of 60,000 Azerbaijani fans, Mkhitaryan has some pressure and that is why they didn't send Mkhitaryan."
I'm told Henrikh Mkhitaryan won't be making the trip to Azerbaijan for Thursday's game. Player's own decision based on the security situation amid the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict. Could be an issue for the final in Baku as well if Arsenal make it that far.
- Mattias Karén (@MattiasKaren) October 1, 2018
As noted by Chris Wheatley of Goal, he didn't travel to Azerbaijan three years back when Dortmund were paired in Gabala's Europa League group. Even though it looked like the issue might get sorted, BVB left him out due to concerns over his safety.
UEFA have said they would support Arsenal if they looked to secure an exemption visa that would allow the 30-year old to make the trip to Baku.
However, Arsenal are still seeking assurances that Mkhitaryan would be safe to travel and as it stands he will not be on the plane.
"Acceptable guarantees have not been received yet, and we hope that UEFA will be able to supply these promptly," the club said as part of a statement.
"We are of course hugely concerned that the location of the final could lead to Micki not being able to play in a European final."