Why Henrikh Mkhitaryan Can't Play Arsenal's Europa League Fixture Away at Qarabag
The Premier League giants, who failed to qualify for the Champions League yet again, were drawn alongside Sporting CP (Portugal), Qarabag (Azerbaijan), and Vorskla Poltava (Ukraine).
However, one of the fixtures could give new boss Unai Emery a selection headache with Henrikh Mkhitaryan set to miss the flight for the away fixture at Qarabag, according to Football London.
Why? Because the club is situated in Baku, Azerbaijan.
Mkhitaryan is from Armenia and the country of Azerbaijan have banned the entry of Armenian citizens. Even people of Armenian descent have a tough time getting into the country with visas denied to people with links to the neighbouring country.
The two countries have given each other the cold shoulder because of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, a territory along the border of the two countries. In 2016, approximately 350 troops and civilians were killed on both sides of the border.
This is not the first time Mkhitaryan was kept at home. When he was at Borussia Dortmund, the Bundesliga club left him at home when they played Azerbaijani club Gabala.
“There are safety concerns and, should a player not feel right about it and have fear, we have to take it into account.” - Dortmund CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke
UEFA generally steps in to help players from other countries obtain visas for their continental competitions but even their hands are tied if the country in question refuses to grant a visa.
“At the end it's always the decision of the state whether visas can be granted or not. It’s not up to Uefa to grant or not grant visas.” - FIFA President Gianni Infantino in 2015
It also raises another concern as the final of this season's Europa League is in Baku. If Arsenal are to reach the final, will he still be banned?
The attacking midfielder was instrumental in the Gunners' Europa League campaign last season when the North London side reached the semi-finals. The January signing had even scored twice - against Ostersunds and AC Milan.
The final group stage schedule is yet to be announced by UEFA.