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FK Qarabag vs Arsenal: Baku in the saddle again

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Arsenal head east - far east - in their quest for Europa League victory

Arsenal FC v Watford FC - Premier League Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

One of the more interesting aspects of European football is that it really puts into perspective how vast Europe actually is. For instance, Arsenal will have traveled nearly 3,000 miles from London, England to Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, for their Europa League matchup against FK Qarabag of the Azerbaijan Premier League, making this one of the furthest distances Arsenal would have to travel for a match outside of a trip to Russia. For those who aren’t geographically savvy, Azerbaijan, the eastern-most nation in Europe (again, besides Russia), is nestled against the Caspian Sea and bordered by Armenia.

That previous fact is one that has caused a bit of drama in this competition before it has even kicked off. As reported last week, Arsenal’s Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who is Armenian, opted out of traveling to Baku for the competition due to Armenia and Azerbaijan’s tense political feud. Arsenal have supported their midfielder’s decision, one which he had previously made in 2015 while playing for Borussia Dortmund. Should Arsenal make the Europa League final, Mkhitaryan will once again have a tough decision to make, as the final is being hosted in Baku.

Aside from Mkhitaryan, it appears as Arsenal will be without key contributors Aaron Ramsey and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, as Ramsey was given the club’s blessing to attend to his nearly-due pregnant wife, while Aubameyang is recovering from an illness.

The good news, however, is that defensive stalwart Sokratis is available after missing out on the team’s victory over Watford over the weekend, while left back Sead Kolasinac, who has been recovering from an injury sustained in the opening week of the Premier League, traveled with the team.

Arsenal’s manager Unai Emery has made it very clear that he is prioritizing the Europa League campaign, so Arsenal is expected to field a strong lineup with only minor changes to be made. Without Aubameyang or Ramsey, there is opportunity for Academy players Emile Smith Rowe and Eddie Nketiah to see some playing time alongside Alex Iwobi, whose current form has certainly given Emery confidence in him going forward.

As for FK Qarabag, they are currently 1st in the Azerbaijan Premier League, which is...good? I literally have no knowledge of the club beside what is available on the Google. Their first Europa League match was a 0-2 defeat to Sporting CP, so they will be desperate to get three points and avoid being stuck in the basement of the group. Will home field advantage help? Will Arsenal struggle with jet lag? Will anyone watch? Those questions and many more will be answered tomorrow.

WHAT: FK Qarabag vs Arsenal

WHEN: Thursday, October 4th, 12:55AM EST/9:55AM PST

WHERE: Azersun Arena, Baku, Azerbaijan

US TV: Paid streaming on the Bleacher Report Live platform / app. Spanish language broadcast available on UniMas if your cable/satellite provider carries that channel.

As a reminder, apart from the final, no Europa League matches will be televised in the US this season. Matches cost $2.99 to watch individually, $9.99 per month for every match from the Champions League and the EL live and on-demand, or $79.99 for the entire season.

Check out livesoccer.tv for all your international streaming needs. B / R Live streaming is only available in the U.S.

As always, please do not discuss links to illegal streams here.