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.