Arsenal manager Unai Emery queried the decision to hold the Europa League final in Baku as the Gunners prepare to face Chelsea later this month.
Emery – a three-time winner of the competition with Sevilla – will take his side to the Azerbaijani capital in a bid to lift the trophy once more and ensure Arsenal earn qualification to next season’s Champions League.
Speaking after Sunday’s 3-1 win at Burnley to conclude the Premier League campaign, Emery suggested it was far from ideal to be playing the final almost 3,000 miles away from the homes of the two clubs involved.
“I don’t know exactly how the decision is made to play in one place or another place,” Emery told a news conference after Arsenal finished fifth, a point adrift of the automatic Champions League places.
“I played against Barcelona in the [2015 UEFA] Super Cup in Tbilisi and it’s the same. The problem is for the supporters, I prefer to play closer to England because we are two English teams and can move a lot of supporters to be with us.
“When we played in Switzerland against Liverpool with Sevilla [in the 2016 Europa League final], the stadium was full of our supporters and Liverpool supporters and it was amazing but I don’t [know] really how they decided to play there.
“There’s going to be only 6,000 supporters for us and Chelsea but the stadium has a capacity for 70,000 so I think it’s going to be full but not with our supporters or Chelsea supporters.”
The 2019 #UELfinal is set!
— UEFA Europa League (@EuropaLeague) May 9, 2019
Earlier this week, Arsenal expressed their concern over the safety of Henrikh Mkhitaryan ahead of the trip to Baku, in light of political tensions between Azerbaijan and the midfielder’s native Armenia.
“It’s political issues and I don’t know what the solution is,” Emery added.
“We want to play with every player, he worked very well [against Burnley], and we’ll do all we can to play with every player and with him but I don’t know the possibility [of playing] with him and the political issues.
“I don’t know what the problem is between two countries but we’ll do all we can to be with Mkhitaryan there.
“It’s not only a sporting issue. It’s not in my hands, I don’t understand what the solution is.”
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