The Armenia captain admitted “it hurts a lot to miss” next Wednesday’s clash with Chelsea in Azerbaijan as a result of security concerns and the possible backlash in his home country due to political tensions in the region.
There are currently no diplomatic relations between Azerbaijan and Armenia amid an ongoing dispute over the Nagorno-Karabakh territory but Mkhitaryan had been granted special dispensation to receive a visa.
As with the group stage game against Qarabag last October, Arsenal sought additional security assurances and although UEFA claim they put a plan in place to boost protection, Mkhitaryan opted against taking the risk following discussions with his family.
Team-mate Aubameyang said: “We know it is a big shame but we respect his decision. It is not easy for him to go there because of political problems. It is a big shame but now we have one more motivation to win.
“Everybody here wants to be back in the Champions League. That’s been the target since the beginning of the season.”
Arsenal will seek further talks with UEFA regarding a range of issues around the selection of Baku as the venue for the match, including Mkhitaryan’s absence and the logistical nightmare the 6,000-mile round trip is proving for supporters.
Arsenal are believed to have sold more than half of their 6,000 allocation — a higher number than Chelsea at this stage — but neither are expected to sell out. Several British-Armenians attempting to travel, some of whom are Arsenal season-ticket holders, have been denied visas.
Goalkeeper Petr Cech, who is set to make the final appearance of a glittering career against his former club, told beIN sPORTs: “Politics and sport should always stay apart.
“Sport brings people together and you should use it as a tool to overcome problems. When you choose the places for finals, there should be certain criteria, [one of] which should be everybody able to go without any problems.
“I feel sorry for him [Mkhitaryan] but we can make him feel happy if we win the trophy, because he played a big part in us reaching the final. It has been a very hard decision. Every player wants to be part of a team that plays in a final. He is not injured, he is fit, he helped us to go all the way.”