Arsenal’s Europa League round-of-32 matches against Benfica are set to both take place at neutral venues due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Mikel Arteta’s side were due to travel to Lisbon for the February 18 first leg, but Portugal is on the UK government’s ‘red list’, which means there are strict coronavirus quarantine rules around people returning from the country.
That would have had an obvious knock-on effect on the Gunners’ subsequent schedule and both clubs have agreed to move the game to Rome’s Stadio Olimpico on the same date as a result.
“UEFA would like to express its gratitude to Benfica and Arsenal for their support and close co-operation, as well as the Italian Football Federation and AS Roma for their assistance and agreeing to stage the match,” European football’s governing body said in a statement.
Although it was not mentioned in UEFA’s release, Arsenal initially said their ‘home’ leg on February 25 would take place in Athens at Olympiacos’ Georgios Karaiskakis Stadium.
However, an amended announcement on their official website stated: “Details regarding the second leg will be confirmed in due course.”
Away goals will still be used to separate the teams in the event of an aggregate score draw.
The Arsenal v Benfica clash is the latest tie in European club competition to be affected by local coronavirus guidelines, with further disruption possible before the Champions League and Europa League resume later this month.
Earlier on Tuesday, Manchester United’s Europa League trip to Real Sociedad was moved to the Allianz Stadium in Turin. Regulations in Spain related to arrivals from the UK mean Chelsea’s tie against Atletico Madrid is also in the offing to be rearranged.
Manchester City and Liverpool’s respective away Champions League games against Borussia Monchengladbach and RB Leipzig in the last 16 will now both take place in Budapest.