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Wenger hopes politics won’t overshadow Arsenal's Moscow clash

By Mark Mann-Bryans

Arsene Wenger is hopeful that Arsenal’s Europa League quarter-final tie with CSKA Moscow won’t be affected by ongoing diplomatic tensions between Russia and the UK.

Arsenal welcome CSKA Moscow to the Emirates tonight in the first leg of their quarter-final before travelling to the Russian capital next week.

The tie has been complicated by rising tensions between the British government and the Kremlin after the poisoning of Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter with a nerve agent in Salisbury last month.

Calls have since been made for England to boycott this summer’s World Cup in Russia while diplomats have been expelled from both countries in the wake of the scandal.

Wenger has admitted the situation remains “complicated” but wants to avoid being dragged into the ongoing political circus.

“Honestly, nobody knows what’s really going on,” he said.

“It looks more like diplomatic relations between England and Russia at the moment are a bit complicated. I just hope it won’t affect both ties and that it will not affect the supporters.”

Away from the world of politics, Wenger struck an optimistic note as he insisted that his side had “recovered from crisis” having won their last four games after the humiliation suffered at the hands of Manchester City.

“We were very disappointed with our result against City,” said Wenger. “It takes time to grieve and recover. But because the mentality is very good, strong and healthy — we’re recovered.

“You judge a team by the way they come out of a crisis. On that front I believe that is positive.

“There’s some extra pressure on us to do extremely well in this competition but that’s part of being where we are. We have to see it as an opportunity we want to take and keep the priorities right and of course focus on how well we play together.”

Despite sitting 13 points off the top four with just seven games to go, Arsenal can still qualify for next season’s Champions League by winning the Europa League.

Their chances have been boosted by the return of Alexandre Lacazette after knee surgery.

“Lacazette is ready to start, yes,” added Wenger. “I have not decided if he will start or not yet, but he’s available and ready to start.”

Arsenal vs CSKA Moscow

Europa League quarter-final:

Emirates Stadium, Tonight, 8.05pm

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