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31st Aug 2018

Henrikh Mkhitaryan might not be allowed to play in one of Arsenal’s Europa League matches for political reasons

Tensions between Azerbaijan, where Qarabag are based, and Mkhitaryan's native Armenia could prevent the player from travelling to play for Arsenal

Reuben Pinder

He could be refused entry to the country for political reasons.

Arsenal have been drawn into a Europa League group with Qarabag, Sporting Clube de Portugal and FC Vorskla. On the face of it, that looks a very winnable group for Arsenal.

However, they could be without Henrikh Mkhitaryan for their away match against Qarabag, as Armenian citizens are not permitted to enter Azerbaijan, where the club are based.

There are still tensions between Azerbaijan and Armenia across the Nagorno-Karabakh region, with a ceasefire declared in 1994 after war broke out several years earlier.

Mkhitaryan did not travel to Azerbaijan during his time as a Borussia Dortmund player for a match against Qarabag, with the German club’s chief executive Hans-Joachim Watzke citing “safety concerns”.

After today’s Europa League draw, UEFA released a statement on Mkhitaryan’s situation to Press Association sport:

“It is a standard procedure for UEFA to send letters of support to associations, clubs or embassies in order to obtain visas for players in order to be able to travel to another country and play in UEFA competition matches.”

If no solution is found before the tie comes around, Mkhitaryan will not be allowed to travel for Arsenal’s away game against Qarabag.

It might not be a one-off for Arsenal and Mkhitaryan either, as the final of this season’s Europa League will be held in Baku, Azerbaijan.

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