Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s availability for Arsenal‘s Europa League trip to Qarabag is in doubt due to tensions between his homeland of Armenia and Azerbaijan.
The Gunners have been drawn with Sporting Lisbon, Ukrainian side Vorskla and Azeri champions Qarabag in Group E.
Some potentially tricky games are compounded by questions over Mkhitaryan’s availability for the trip to Azerbaijan, which is also hosting the Europa League final in the capital of Baku.
Tensions continue between Azerbaijan and Armenia over the Nagorno-Karabakh region, with a ceasefire declared in 1994 after fighting erupted several years earlier.
Those issues meant Mkhitaryan did not travel with Borussia Dortmund to a Europa League game against Gabala in October 2015, with the German club’s chief executive Hans-Joachim Watzke citing “safety concerns”.
In relation to the situation surrounding Mkhitaryan, UEFA said in a statement: “It is a standard procedure for UEFA to send letters of support to associations, clubs or embassies in order to obtain visas for players in order to be able to travel to another country and play in UEFA competition matches.”
The Gunners, last season’s semi-finalists, were drawn in Group E alongside the Portuguese club, Azerbaijan champions Qarabag and Ukrainian outfit Vorskla.
Portuguese club Sporting have started their domestic campaign unbeaten despite a troublesome summer that saw seven players cancel their contracts following an attack by fans at the training ground last season.
Arsenal boss Unai Emery has won the competition three times as manager of Sevilla.
Chelsea face some long trips on their return to Europe’s second-tier competition for the first time since they lifted the trophy in 2013.
Maurizio Sarri’s Blues have been drawn with Greek side PAOK, Belarusian champions BATE Borisov and Hungarian title winners Vidi in Group L.
Scottish giants Celtic and Rangers both face difficult draws as they aim to negotiate the group stages.
Celtic are in Group B with Austrian champions Red Bull Salzburg, Bundesliga side RB Leipzig and Norwegian title holders Rosenborg, who the Hoops beat in a Champions League qualifier earlier this summer.
Rangers are back in a European group stage for the first time since the 2010/11 Champions League following their play-off win against Ufa.
They will return to Russia to face Spartak Moscow in Group G, which also contains La Liga side Villarreal and Austrian’s Rapid Vienna.
The final of this season’s Europa League takes place in Baku on May 29.
The draw for the group stage, taking place at the Grimaldi Forum in Monaco, starting at 3pm UAE time.
Forty-eight clubs have been split equally into four pots, and the draw will see 12 groups formed containing one team from each pot, with teams from the same association being kept apart.
Chelsea and Arsenal, who respectively finished fifth and sixth in the Premier League last season, are both in pot one.
That pot also features Lazio, Sevilla, Villarreal, Bayer Leverkusen, Zenit St Petersburg, Dynamo Kiev, Besiktas, Red Bull Salzburg, Olympiakos and Anderlecht.
Scottish champions Celtic are in pot two, having been knocked out in the Champions League third qualifying round by AEK Athens and then got past Lithuania’s Suduva in their Europa League qualifying play-off.
🗓️ Friday: 2018/19 #UEL group stage draw! 🤩🤩🤩
All you need to know 👇👇👇
— UEFA Europa League (@EuropaLeague) August 30, 2018
Other teams in that pot include AC Milan, Marseille, who were beaten by Atletico Madrid in last season’s final, Sporting Lisbon and Fenerbahce.
Rangers, after overcoming Ufa in their play-off, are in pot four, which also features Slavia Prague and Rosenborg.
Pot three includes Real Betis, Red Bull Leipzig, Eintracht Frankfurt, Bordeaux and Rennes.
While Celtic and Rangers secured their places in the draw on Thursday night, Burnley’s hopes of making the group stage ended as a 1-1 draw against Olympiakos at Turf Moor in the second leg of their play-off saw them lose 4-2 on aggregate.
With the Clarets knowing a 2-0 win on Thursday would send them through, Sam Vokes failed to convert two good chances and hit the post, Ashley Barnes shot just wide and Dwight McNeil was denied by a good save before Olympiakos netted through Daniel Podence in the 83rd minute. Substitute Matej Vydra replied three minutes later.
Burnley boss Dyche said: “It was an excellent performance from start to finish.
“We created so many opportunities to win the game and didn’t quite win it of course. Just to win it would have been at least what we deserved, and probably to go through, if you do take your chances – but we didn’t take our chances, and that has to be the only blot on the copy book really.
“(I was) very pleased and very proud of the players, without a doubt.”
REACTION | “Very very proud of the way the players have gone about it…”
— Burnley FC (@BurnleyOfficial) August 30, 2018
The first group games will played on September 20. This season’s final will be on May 29 next year at the Olympic Stadium in Baku, Azerbaijan.
As well as the draw, Friday’s ceremony will also see the 2017-18 UEFA Europa League Player of the Season award being announced – Atletico pair Antoine Griezmann and Diego Godin and Marseille’s Dimitri Payet are on the shortlist.