Report: Arsenal and Benfica working on two-leg neutral ground showdown

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According to Portuguese publication Mais Futebol, it’s increasingly likely that both legs of the last 32 Europa League clash between Arsenal and Benfica will take place at neutral grounds.

As we reported a couple of weeks ago, due to Covid-19 travel restrictions, the Gunners are unable to play in Lisbon without quarantining for 10 days on the return to London.

Uefa rules allow for a change of venue in such circumstances – and even for the tie to be played as a one-off game – but it sounds as though both sides are leaning towards keeping it as a double-header, albeit outside the UK and Portugal.

The report claims stadia in Spain, France and Italy are preferred, however, venues further afield, including those in Greece, have not been ruled out.

A final decision on where the games take place is expected in the coming days. The first leg is scheduled for 18 February with the return fixture a week later.

Last week, it was confirmed that Liverpool will face RB Leipzig in Budapest, Hungary after plans to play at Red Bull Arena in Germany were scrapped due to coronavirus protocols in the country.

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Dave

Okay

Johnny 4 Hats

This.

Great comment. Absolutely nailed it. Just condensed everything I was ruminating into simple but somehow sophisticated semantics.

Take a bow son.

Biggles

It has to be either a one-off game or a two-leg tie – either option on neutral territory. Given the EL represents very probably our best (only?) chance of European football next season, I assume we don’t want to put all our European eggs in a one game basket. If so it makes sense as Benfica won’t be a pushover.

Johnny 4 Hats

You know where would be good for a neutral venue.

Switzerland.

Bastards never pick a side.

Johnny 4 Hats

Maybe that’s why sometimes Xhaka seems like he’s playing for the opposition too…

MARIO DIAMANT

low blow…perfectly executed 🙂

Heavenly Chapecoense

Austria, we perform better in pre-season games.

Dynamo bicycle light

Yes but then they have to sing about it, like that Julie Andrews

Geefive

Great. Now I’m crying about Christopher Plummer again. Thanks.

Ealing

we are rather good in one leg competitions, like FA cup, if we mind to field a strong team
so i fancy us over one leg

Biggles

Yes, that’s true to a point. We’ll see, but there’s a lot riding on this tie (one or two leg) unless we improve considerably in the PL as, on current form – or anything like it – we’re not going to be in Europe through our league position next season.

IamaGoober

Would like to think we’d normally have enough in the tank to get past Benfica but considering they’re 4th in their league, only losing 3 games this campaign.. I wont be surprised if we get turfed out, especially if Partey isn’t fit. Then that will truly be the season over before the end of February.

As Josh said, we should definitely be excited.

Steve

What about in between both countries? France won’t be an option, but what about Switzerland? We could drop Xhaka off as well…

Martin

What exactly is your problem with Xhaka who has been a key player in the improvement with our defence and his forward passing range is excellent

Jibbs

He’s generally been stagnant in his development since we signed him, average then and pretty average now.. not to mention his tantrum a while back – That alone was enough for some people to dislike him/want him gone

Martin

If you were targeted by toxic fans and sent disgusting tweets including wishing his daughter got cancer, maybe you too wouldn’t be too happy. He has very far from average since his return from suspension

jimbo

a key player in a team currently sitting 10th in the league and having our worst season for god knows how long.
open your eyes

Man Manny

Dumb comment about Xhaka. He is one of our consistent performers lately, the rush of blood against Burnley aside.
Whatever you have against him seems to be an off-field issue

Matthinc

Like Cologne/Köln?

Heavenly Chapecoense

Nailed it. Visit Rwanda.

Andy

What is the point ? It is doubling the risks. Just play a one off on a neutral ground.

BillyKrystal

With how unpredictable we’re playing a one off just might suit us.

Rich

Why don’t we take a bus driver with us?

Fly into a private airport

Drive to the stadium

Play the game

Drive from the stadium to the airport

Fly home

This way both teams don’t have to travel twice

Statistically both teams will come into contact with less people this way

The only people the teams would come into contact with would be immigration officials, and the opposing team

And players would come into contact with each other wherever the games played

Andy

Or just take the bus there. Somewhere in the south of France would be equitable.

Matthinc

Could we play two games one after the other with unlimited subs?

Ealing

or one game first team to score 3 goals, could take a while

Let’s ask Mesut to give us a lend of Fenerbahce’s Stadium.

Man Manny

I understand the preference for a two legged affair.
It will be a tight affair, but if our key players – Leno, Tierney, Gabriel, Partey, ESR, Saka, Laca – are fit, I expect us to go through.

Andy

Surely the whole point of two leg ties is to equalise home advantage. If there is no home advantage for either side, then a two leg match is entirely unecessary?

Man Manny

Opportunity to make amends after a bad game irrespective of where it is played is the idea

And speaking of home advantage, although it is subject to debate, I have a feeling the poor home form of some teams in the league this season is down to the absence of fans.
The home advantage edge is not there this season.

Arsene's Coat

Can we have more of these opportunities to make amends after a bad game, please?

Biggles

Possibly, but a one-off is so “final” which is OK if we win it but against competent opposition – certainly better than anyone we’ve played so far in the EL this time around – a option of a second bite of the cherry may be advisable just in case.

This Italian journalist claims that the first leg will be played at the Olympic Stadium in Rome.

https://twitter.com/tancredipalmeri/status/1358803592010956800

Jon

So, will away goals count for both legs.

ParteyPants

Was thinking this! Guarantee we’ll end up with the farcical scenario of someone going out on “away goals” this season at a 2 legged neutral ground.

Man Manny

Yes. Benfica is “hosting” the first leg. That hasn’t changed.

Ross

Surely it makes sense to play both games back to back in this circumstance, and delay a league game.

Ealing

one game is more than enough. we should get through if we are in, we are in, if not move along. no need to double the misery

Ozymandias

How about a one legged tie in Azerbaijan?

Joel

I can’t see anything wrong with that suggestion. I’ve got a vague recollection we may have been there before but I’ve successfully repressed all memories of that time.

JeremyDG

Why do we have to sort this out? Surely if this is a UEFA competition they should be organising the logistics considering everyone is experiencing the same pandemic and the credibility of their tournament is at stake? Either way I’m kind of glad they aren’t making any decisions on the venue. We’d probably end up playing on the moon.

Matthinc

Not to be trusted, that lot

Torterrier

Arsenal aren’t that much better at making decisions these days, could end up playing on mars.

Ealing

By the time we are back in London, misery with this team should be over.

Fatgooner

Playing two legs on neutral grounds makes no sense to me – apart from the extra TV revenue for the second game. It should just be a one-off match. You never know what Covid restrictions are around the corner: a one-off game and it’s done and dusted.

BTW: maximum respect to Edu for secretly swapping Runnerson and Liverpool’s Alison during the transfer window. The disguise is perfect. The REAL Alison should start for us next game.

Gareth McCormack

All I can think about now is Runarsson wandering about Anfield in a Bo Selecta mask

BillyKrystal

Hopefully Alisson can recover from frostbite of the feet that Klopp alluded to.

Five_a_Side_a_Day

At times like this, there is only one sensible solution: settle it on FIFA 21, world class level.

They can even play with a Zoom call running just to make sure that only eligible players take part and to simultaneously demonstrate their connection to those fans who suffer this torture on a daily basis.

Not only am I confident that this will actually happen, I also suspect it was the real reason why we signed Willian who, if the rumours on WillAnon are to believed, can conjure up some impressive moves with two digits and a right trigger.

Santori

One leg two leg, we just need to bring our legs to the game early and win it. We’ve been having poor focus and we need to be sharper up front too. I don’t think Arteta has been making the right calls last match with substitutions. Preferably when chasing a game, you’d want BOTH your strikers on with Laca naturally more dispose to tighter confines needed to be pushed and stationed closer to or within the box and Auba channeled in from left adding presence in the box as and when. But also ceballos needs to have a look in.,… Read more »

Santori

Just so we’re crystal clear, we are in 11th now. Leeds just leap frogged us. Soton behind us has a game in hand as does Leeds even if we beat them next game.

As I mentioned several matches before, we are still in mid table. Improvements are illusionary.

We need points.

Dynamo bicycle light

Antarctica, Tierney will love that.

TeeCee

Nah. Southern hemisphere, so it’s the middle of summer there.

Pedro

Providing Uefa has no problem for the tie to be played as a one-off game, I assume there will be no issues to play the second leg on different date than scheduled. I suggest the best solution will be to pick a stadium (Spain, France, Monaco), travel there and play both legs in 3-4 days period (thursday and saturday/sunday) and postopne upcoming PL match to next midweek. This way both regularity (two legs) and covid safety (limiting risks) will be preserved.

Ealing

The first leg, which is Benfica’s ‘home’ fixture, will be played at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome on February 18, at 8pm (UK time).
Our ‘home’ fixture will be played at the Georgios Karaiskakis Stadium in Athens, Olympiacos’ stadium, on February 25. Kick-off has yet to be confirmed.