Mikel Arteta is less than impressed that Uefa has switched the order of Sp*rs’ Europa League ties ahead of this month’s North London derby.
Our neighbours were due to play Dinamo Zagreb in Croatia next Thursday at the same time we face Olympiakos in Greece. However, with Uefa rules stipulating sides from the same city shouldn’t play home legs on the same night, they’ve switched Sp*rs tie around, meaning they’ll now play at home before visiting the Emirates on Sunday 14 March.
While Sp*rs lose the advantage of playing their Europa League return leg at home, they benefit from not having to travel ahead of their game with us. Moreover, juddging by our travel arrangements for our recent trip to Athens, Arteta’s squad won’t return to London until Friday meaning one less day to recover and prepare.
It’s clearly irked the boss. “It does [give them an advantage], but unfortunately it’s not going to change,” he said.
“We can raise our voices and we should do that because we want to have two teams playing in equal conditions. But the decision has been made and that’s it.”
He added: “I don’t want to use one bit of excuse going towards that game saying, ‘oh, they have an advantage’.
“So no, probably I will use that to take it in our advantage. And that’s it.”
Why did they switch Sp*rs’ game rather than ours? Our status as England’s cup winners was deemed more important by Uefa than qualifying via a league position and thus they dicked around with Mourinho’s travel plans rather than ours. In theory, they were doing us a favour but they didn’t.
What’s really odd is why Uefa felt the need to move Sp*rs’ game at all. The reason teams don’t play in the same city on the same night is to relieve the burden on the authorities. Of course, with no fans in attendance, the police won’t have the problem of marshalling 120,000 people within a few postcodes.
Anyway, as Arteta says. It is what it is.