Arsenal face Mkhitaryan headache

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Arsenal coach Unai Emery is hoping Henrikh Mkhitaryan will be able to travel to Azerbaijan for a Europa League game despite the country’s ongoing dispute with the midfielder’s native Armenia over the Nagorno-Karabakh region.

Friday’s Europa League draw paired Arsenal with Azerbaijani champions Qarabag, with the Gunners travelling to Azerbaijan’s capital Baku in October. However, Mkhitaryan’s availability for the game is in doubt because of tensions between Azerbaijan and Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh, which has been under Armenian control since a 1994 ceasefire ended a six-year war. Azerbaijan also claims the territory.

In 2015, during his time at Borussia Dortmund, Mkhitaryan did not travel to Azerbaijan for a Europa League match against Gabala, the German club citing security concerns.

Armenians are banned from entering Azerbaijan, so if Mkhitaryan is to travel to Baku next month he would need an exemption from the Azerbaijani government to obtain a visa.

However, Emery, speaking after the draw was announced, said he wants Mkhitaryan to be available for the game.

“I would like that he can [travel] with us,” Emery said. “And this problem, if we can together arrange [a solution], it’s better. But I have not yet spoken with him.”

UEFA said on Friday that it would try to ensure that Mkhitaryan is able to get a visa for the game.

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

Should Arsenal reach the Europa League final, Mkhitaryan’s availability could be in doubt as the game is due be played in Baku.