UEFA has moved Arsenal’s Europa League game against FC Vorskla from Poltava to Kiev because of “security concerns” after Ukraine imposed martial law in parts of the country.
The game will now be played at Kiev’s Olympic Stadium on Thursday at the scheduled kickoff time of 7:55 p.m. local time (5:55 p.m. UK time).
Ukraine has imposed martial law in certain regions after its 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 had said on Monday that the game would be played as scheduled in Poltava, but changed its mind on Tuesday.
“UEFA’s Emergency Panel has today taken the decision to relocate FC Vorskla’s UEFA Europa League group stage match against Arsenal FC from the city of Poltava, following the introduction of martial law into certain regions in Ukraine,” the governing body said in a statement.
“UEFA will continue to monitor and assess the security situation in Ukraine in the coming days before making any decision on potentially relocating other matches.”
The decision should make Arsenal’s travel schedule much easier, as the trip to Poltava would have included a three-hour bus ride to and from the closest airport. However, it is likely to cause problems for the Arsenal fans who were set to travel to the match, with reports saying about 500 away supporters were expected in Poltava.
“We are currently working closely with UEFA and the relevant authorities to ensure the safety and welfare of all our supporters who have, and will be travelling to Ukraine for this match,” Arsenal said in a statement. “Further updates regarding the match arrangements for supporters will be made as soon as we have received confirmation from UEFA.”
Arsenal are set to travel to Kiev on Wednesday. Coach Unai Emery faces a tough decision when it comes to his squad selection as he may be tempted to rest several first-team regulars ahead of Sunday’s crucial North London Derby against Tottenham. However, a win in Ukraine would ensure that Arsenal win their Europa League group with a game to spare.
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