Arsenal will play Benfica in their Europa League round of 32 clash at a neutral venue for the first the fixtures between the sides. Due to UK travel restrictions with Portugal, the match will be played in Rome, with the situation surrounding home and away goals still unconfirmed.
The restrictions in place in the UK force all those travelling to Portugal to self-isolate for ten days upon returning home, a measure that Arsenal simply can’t afford given their fixture fixture commitments.
Already similar decisions have been made for sides in the Champions League, with Liverpool to face RB Leipzig in Hungary after initial plans to play at Red Bull Arena were abandoned due to coronavirus protocols in Germany.
As per journalist Tancredi Palmeri and O Jogo, Rome has been set as the venue for the first leg of the round of 32 clash with Benfica which indicates that the away goals rule will be scrapped for the tie. However, should Arsenal locate their ‘home’ venue then the system could still be in place.
Rome chosen as venue for Arsenal vs Benfica in Europa League round of 32 but no venue set for second leg
All that has been revealed thus far is that Rome will host the first match, which may mean that Lazio and Roma’s Stadio Olimpico will be the chosen venue.
The eagle-eyed will note that Roma are also still in the Europa League and will play on the same day as Arsenal for the second leg…in their own stadium. Therefore, it looks unlikely that the second leg would be played at the same stadium as there will be a tight turnover with Mikel Arteta’s side due to play at 17:55PM on that day with Roma penciled in for 20:00PM.
Benfica and Arsenal would surely have to play much earlier than their scheduled time in order for the second match to go ahead. Equally, Stadio Flaminio may be chosen as the venue instead of Stadio Olimpico.
As stated in the report by the Portuguese outlet, UEFA may extend the date for the second leg until March 5, and if no venue can be arranged on Arsenal’s part (they play the second leg at home) they will be automatically handed a 3-0 loss. Greece has been mentioned as a potential desintation.
Is Stadio Olimpico a good choice? Arsenal do have fond memories of the stadium with their last visit there being a penalty shootout victory over Roma in 2009. It’s an entirely different team now, of course, but any omens are welcome.
Official confirmation from Arsenal and UEFA is expected shortly. The fixture dates are set for February 18th and February 25th, although if no compromise can be found in time another week will be added onto the date.