Report: Arsenal set to play Benfica on neutral ground

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According to the Evening Standard, the away leg of Arsenal’s Europa League tie with Benfica is set to take place at a neutral venue because of stricter Covid-19-related travel restrictions.

The Gunners are due to face the Portuguese giants at the Stadium of Light in Lisbon on Thursday 18 February, however, the UK has now placed Portugal on its ‘red list’ meaning anybody returning from the country will immediately be forced to quarantine for 10 days. The new measures are so strict that the usual exemptions for top-level sport will not apply.

Were Mikel Arteta’s players to go into quarantine, they’d be ruled out of action for the second-leg at the Emirates on Thursday 25 February as well as Premier League games with Manchester City and Leicester.

A new UEFA rules stipulate that the onus is on Benfica to find a neutral venue or they will take matters into their own hands.

“If restrictions imposed by the national/local authorities of the visiting club’s country apply to the visiting club’s travel to play the match or its return home after the match, the home club must propose a suitable alternative venue which may be in a neutral country (within the territory of a UEFA member association) that would allow the match to take place and would not cause the visiting club any restrictions in either travel direction.

“If the home club fails to propose such suitable alternative venue, the UEFA administration will take a final decision on the match venue and /or match date.

“The home club will remain responsible for the organisation of the match and both clubs will share the related costs in equal measure.”

There are currently 30 countries on the “red list” including all those in South America, as well as large parts of Southern Africa and Portugal.

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Adriano

They can chose to play in Wembley 😅

C.B.

Sensible, especially with the next two matches afterwards when we will need to be at our best.

Johnny 4 Hats

God, I’m so nervous about this game. Does anyone know much about Benfica? Strengths, weaknesses, good players?

My knowledge of Portuguese football is non existent but I remember Benfica historically being a pretty strong side with plenty of flair.

Massive game. Europa would be such an incredible tournament to go deep in with a manager who isn’t going to (hopefully) capitulate right before the finishing line.

Daveo

It’s a bit ridiculous to blame the manager for capitulating in the final. Maybe the players could have played a role in that? Emery is an easy target, but he has an incredible record of Europa success and that run only adds to it.

Public Elneny

It wasn’t just the EL final we capitulated in though, it was just a continuation of our form in the final 10 or so games of the league season

An extended period of poor form is almost always mostly on the manager – if there are players who are individually in bad form or not putting in maximum effort he can take them out, etc

Daveo

 Europa would be such an incredible tournament to go deep in with a manager who isn’t going to (hopefully) capitulate right before the finishing line.”

That’s the comment – a capitulating manager in the final. Our players capitulated in that final. If they can’t get up for a final, that’s on them. Maybe we made some tactical mistakes, but managers don’t choke in finals. Players do, and we DID!

Futsboller

Helps if the players have a gameplan that they understand and believe in though …

TungorAdams

The problems started prior to the final, it wasn’t anything we hadn’t seen in preceding games. But yes I guess I was not the only one hoping the final would be with desire and intensity, which it wasn’t .

Dave Cee

Actually we looked the better team in the 1st half of the final, but as soon as Chelsea scored our players totally lost the plot and ran around like headless chickens, I remember Kos especially being all over the place. I’m sure the pressure of trying to get CL qualification after blowing the top 4 finish was a huge part of it

Ben

Surely this will apply in the return leg as well, as Benfica would have to quarantine when they arrived here?

Neerav

I had the same question, but the UEFA wording implies its the visting countries rules applying to the visiting team. So if Portugal have no quarantine requirements for Benfica on its return, then Arsenal might have no obligation to provide an alternative venue.

But by the rules, Benfica have to quarantine for 10 days in England….

goonshow

Boris will book them into no 10 for the ten days.

Eddy F

Play both at a neutral venue? Spain for the away leg, France for our “home” leg?

Daveo

Potentially schedule both to a neutral venue, rearrange the Mancity league game and play the Europa tie on Thursday and Sunday at the same venue in a relatively isolated place with isolated training facilities for each team. Surely reducing back and forth for both teams is beneficial?

goonshow

Smart thinking – make like an Emirates Cup-type long weekend schedule

Glenn

Rearranging the Man City league game would be tricky, as City are already running out of spare midweeks in which to play their matches.

Sak, Lac & Craic

Absolutely – I think the only sensible conclusion would be a forfeit on behalf of Benfica as it’ll be hard to find a neutral ground wherein the host government don’t require the Portuguese team to quarantine. The Manaus variant is not to be trifled with.

Sinayoko

I guess so, wondering what is the used of a 2 leg tied if these matches are played in neutral places?

mjc1892

Surely a one off game in a neutral venue makes the most sense for the timebeing. It’s not like home advantage really means much without fans anyway.

Sac, Lac & Craic

Most EU member states have the same rules for quarantine of Portuguese nationals… It cannot be Spain or France

Sac, Lac & Craic

If the option is to trapse out to someplace like Baku (again) where a corrupt government is ignoring the interests of it’s people I think the club should put their foot down.

How about Dubai; might as well milk the situation and make some money.

Sac, Lac & Craic

Has to be a UEFA affiliate nation – not Dubai.

DaDude

While I completely agree, unfortunately you know exactly that UEFA would have no problem with that, after all they awarded Baku the EL final. So deciding to not go there would probably mean elimination.

DaDude

Problem is the additional week of rest as compared to teams that wouldn’t play in one neutral venue, but could actually play a home and away leg. To keep the competition fair, UEFA could just decide that all games would be one leg in a neutral location.

Bossman Bill

If they can’t find a venue, would we get a bye?

Nainsley Aitland Miles

That wouldn’t surprise me. This is going to be a headache as the entire EU will close their borders to Portugal. It just depends if any EU countries give an exemption to elite sport.

Bossman Bill

I see. Yeah it’s a massive headache for everyone. I can’t imagine what organising the euros is going to be like.

Sac, Lac & Craic

Shouldn’t happen

JJT

Could we not do it on zoom?

Salibaba and the Forty Thieves

FIFA multiplayer tournament?

Ozzie

We should offer to play them at the Stadium of Light, Sunderland