Football

Henrikh Mkhitaryan to miss Europa League final due to safety issues

Arsenal's Armenian midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan will miss next week's Europa League final against Chelsea in Baku amid fears over his safety.

Mkhitaryan's well-being was a concern for Arsenal due to the tense political dispute between Armenia and final hosts Azerbaijan.

The English Premier League club have decided against Mkhitaryan travelling with the rest of Unai Emery's squad for the match next Thursday morning (Singapore time).

"We are very disappointed to announce that Henrikh Mkhitaryan will not be travelling with the squad for our Europa League final against Chelsea," said an Arsenal statement yesterday.

"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."

Azerbaijan's ambassador to the UK, Tahir Taghizadeh, had insisted Mkhitaryan would be free from any threat of violence, but it was reported the star didn't believe he would be safe on the pitch.

"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," Mkhitaryan tweeted.

"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."

Uefa, European football's governing body, insisted they had done all they could to ensure Mkhitaryan's safety in Baku.

"Working alongside Arsenal, Uefa sought and received assurances regarding the player's safety in Azerbaijan from the highest authorities in the country," a Uefa statement read.

"As a result of these guarantees, a comprehensive security plan was developed and given to the club.

"While the club acknowledge the efforts that Uefa and the Azeri government have gone to in this matter, we respect the personal decision not to travel with the player."

Mkhitaryan, who had also missed former club Borussia Dortmund's game in Azerbaijan in 2015, had featured in 11 Europa League games this term.

His absence will be a big blow as Arsenal look for the victory they need to qualify for next season's Champions League. - AFP

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