Borussia Dortmund will have to make do without the services of Henrikh Mkhitaryan when they take on Qabala on Thursday due to political tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
Armenia playmaker Mkhitaryan has been a key figure for Dortmund in 2015-16, scoring 10 goals in 16 appearances in all competitions, while setting up eight more.
Mkhitaryan does not feel comfortable travelling to Qabala, though, due to the tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan, meaning head coach Thomas Tuchel will have to look at other options.
“Mkhitaryan will not be travelling with us,” Dortmund CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke told Bild.
“We have looked at the situation and there is so much tension that we have to look at the players’ interest here.
“You always have to look at safety concerns. If a player does not feel comfortable and has fear, we will obviously bear that in mind.”
Irrespective of Mkhitaryan’s absence, however, Dortmund will have reasons for optimism heading into the game.
Tuchel’s men returned to winning ways at the weekend after going four matches without a victory, beating Tuchel’s former club Mainz 2-0.
Additionally, they have been in fine form in Europe in 2015-16, winning five out of their six games while scoring an impressive 20 goals in the process.
With Mkhitaryan to stay behind in Dortmund, Tuchel is likely to turn to one of Adnan Januzaj and Jonas Hoffman to support Marco Reus, Shinji Kagawa and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang up front.
BVB will still be without Erik Durm and Nuri Sahin due to injury, yet Marcel Schmelzer could return after shaking off a thigh problem.
Meanwhile, Qabala will be hopeful of getting a positive result irrespective of Dortmund’s attacking prowess.
They are one of only two clubs who have made it all the way from the first qualifying round to the group stage in this season’s competition and are unbeaten in five European home games, not conceding in 450 minutes of European football in Baku this season.
Roman Grygorchuk’s men have already held off Siroki Brijeg, Dinamo Tbilisi, Cukaricki, Apollon Limassol, Panathinaikos and PAOK on home soil and will now be looking to add Dortmund to that list.
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