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World Cup 2018

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Home Sport Football

Wenger believes sport can help heal political rift ahead of Europa League tie

Arsenal face CSKA in Moscow with relations between Britain and Russia at a low point.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger believes football can play a role in helping to “facilitate relations” amid plenty of diplomatic incidents occurring at present.

The Gunners face CSKA Moscow on Thursday night with the relationship between the United Kingdom and Russia still at a low point.

There is the backdrop of heightened tension between the British government and the Kremlin over the poisoning of Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter with a nerve agent in Salisbury last month.

There is also fresh unease between Russia and the United States in recent days as the countries clash over the current situation unfolding in Syria.

Wenger, speaking in Moscow on the eve of their Europa League quarter-final second leg, said sport can play a unique role during these times and ahead of this summer’s World Cup in Russia.

“Sport can always play a positive role in life and between countries as well,” he said.

“That is why football is a good opportunity always to facilitate relations. I am convinced that tomorrow night will be absolutely normal and the World Cup will be perfectly well organised.

“I have no problem about that. But maybe sport will have a more active role during this period than ever.”

Three hundred Arsenal fans are expected to make the journey from the UK, with the away attendance likely to be around the 800 mark as other tickets are snapped up by supporters from Russia and beyond.

But, after CSKA fans went untroubled throughout the 4-1 Arsenal win in last week’s first leg, Wenger envisages no issues for those making the trip.

“On that front, there will be no problem,” he said.

“We have been well welcomed here. We had no problems to come here. I don’t think that will affect the game. As well, we are not really informed what is right and wrong so it is best for us to stay out of that.

“I don’t think there will be a problem. We had many Russian fans in London. There was no problem. Why should it be different here?”

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