Arsenal fans have been warned to be careful when they travel to Moscow for their Europa League quarter final tie.
As diplomatic relations between the UK and Russia continue to deteriorate, English and Russian sides probably could have done with being kept apart in European competition, but the Footballing Gods were having none of that, so Arsenal will welcome CSKA to Ashburton Grove on 5 April before travelling to the Russian capital the following week.
An Arsenal spokesperson said that “the safety of our fans is always a top priority,” and confirmed that the club will be working with authorities in both countries to ensure a trouble-free experience.
Arsenal are expected to train in London on the day before the game before travelling to Moscow. The Daily Mail report that the Gunners will not train at the VEB Arena the evening before the game, heading straight to their hotel instead.
The last time Arsenal played CSKA is it claimed that the man who allegedly poisoned former KGB agent, Alexander Litvinenko, attended the match leaving traces of radioactive substances at the ground after the Champions League group game in 2006.
With Theresa May expelling 23 Russian diplomats from the country in the wake of the attack in Salisbury on a former Russian spy and his daughter, Vladimir Putin’s government have threatened retaliation.
The Foreign and Commonwealth office are advising “due to heightened political tensions between the UK and Russia, you should be aware of the possibility of anti-British sentiment or harassment at this time; you’re advised to remain vigilant, avoid any protests or demonstrations and avoid commenting publically [sic] on political developments; while the British Embassy in Moscow is not aware of any increased difficulties for British people travelling in Russia at this time, you should follow the security and political situation closely and keep up to date with this travel advice.”
They have also produced guidance for fans heading to the country for the World Cup which might be of assistance to Arsenal fans travelling next month.
CSKA have a history of sanctions from both UEFA and the Russian FA. They were forced to play two Champions League games behind closed doors as punishment for monkey chants aimed at Yaya Toure in 2013. Death threats and chants against people from Russia’s Caucasus region a couple of years later saw the club punished by the Russian FA and forced to close part of their stadium. The club also took legal action against its own fans for fighting with Roma fans in the Champions League in 2014.
Europa League draw in full:
1st leg April 5, 2nd leg April 12
- RB Leipzig v Marseille
- Arsenal v CSKA Moscow
- Atletico Madrid v Sporting Lisbon
- Lazio v Red Bull Salzburg