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21 May, 2019 10:51

Henri-KO: Arsenal confirm Mkhitaryan to miss Europa League final over safety concerns in Azerbaijan

Henri-KO: Arsenal confirm Mkhitaryan to miss Europa League final over safety concerns in Azerbaijan

Arsenal have confirmed midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan will not travel with the team to next week's UEFA Europa League final at the Baku Olympic Stadium against Chelsea over fears for the Armenian's safety in Azerbaijan.

Fears had been voiced over the 30-year-old's safety due to the fractious relationship between his native country and Azerbaijan which has seen two wars in a little over a century. On Tuesday, Arsenal announced Mkhitaryan would not travel to or play in the May 29 final against Premier League rivals Chelsea.

"We have thoroughly explored all the options for Micki to be part of the squad but after discussing this with Micki and his family we have collectively agreed he will not be in our travelling party," Arsenal said in an official club statement.

"We have written to Uefa expressing our deep concerns about this situation. Micki has been a key player in our run to the final so this is a big loss for us from a team perspective.

"We’re also very sad that a player will miss out on a major European final in circumstances such as this, as it is something that comes along very rarely in a footballer’s career. Micki will continue to be part of our preparations until we depart for Baku at the weekend."

The player later tweeted his own disappointment at missing the final of a competition he won with Manchester United in 2017. "Having considered all the current options, we had to take the tough decision for me not to travel with the squad to the UEL Final against Chelsea," he wrote.

"It's the kind of game that doesn’t come along very often for us players and I must admit, it hurts me a lot to miss it. I will be cheering my teammates on! Let’s bring it home."

The absence of Mkhitaryan is part of a plethora of problems that has faced the Europa League final before a ball has been kicked in Baku; UEFA have been slammed by fans, ex-players and the media over their decision to make just 6,000 tickets available to each side for the final, on top of existing geographical and logistical issues.