Arsenal monitoring Ukraine situation as Europa League game set to go ahead


Arsenal are monitoring the security situation in Ukraine but do not expect the country’s political tensions with Russia to affect their preparations for Thursday’s Europa League game against FC Vorskla.

UEFA said on Monday that the game will go ahead as planned even as the Ukraine’s President, Petro Poroshenko, called for martial law. Ukraine’s navy said six of its sailors were wounded when Russian coastguards opened fire on three ships in waters off Crimea and then seized them late on Sunday.

UEFA said it could “confirm that the match will be played as scheduled,” adding that “as is the case for all UEFA competition matches, all the necessary security measures will be undertaken.”

An Arsenal spokesperson told ESPN FC on Tuesday that the club are in close contact with UEFA and other authorities ahead of their trip but are expecting to fly out on Wednesday as scheduled, with a training session planned in Vorskla’s stadium in Poltava in the evening.

The trip was already set to be difficult regardless of the political situation as the only way for the team to get to Poltava is by flying to Kharkiv and then taking a three-hour bus trip to the city. Temperatures are also expected to drop to around -8 Celsius for kickoff, with pictures from the stadium this week showing a frozen pitch.

It means coach Unai Emery could be tempted to leave some of his first-team regulars at home with Sunday’s crucial North London Derby against Tottenham in mind, although he has said he wants a win to make sure the team finishes top of their group.

“For us the Europa League is very important,” Emery said after Sunday’s Premier League win over Bournemouth. “We want to finish first in the group. It’s a long travel and suddenly after we will play Tottenham, but I want to give the team rest for the competition.”

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