Arsenal’s plan to play the ‘home’ leg of their Europa League tie against Benfica in Athens could face a major obstacle amid lockdown reports.
As has become clear in the last couple of weeks, Arsenal are unable to face Benfica in Portugal for their Europa League tie due to restrictions on travel between the country and the UK. Instead, both the home and the away leg will take place in neutral venues.
On Tuesday night, Arsenal confirmed that the first leg on Thursday, February 18th at 20:00 GMT would take place at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome. This is the ‘away’ leg for Arsenal, and yes, the away-goals rule is still in effect.
Arsenal also initially confirmed the second ‘home’ leg would take place at the Georgios Karaiskakis Stadium in Athens. However, they have since removed this part of their article as uncertainty around the possibility grows.
Mark Mann-Bryans reports that Athens is basically ‘first choice’ for Arsenal’s home leg at the moment. But it could yet be ruled out as an option if Greece enters a national lockdown.
Reports in the news this week confirm that the Greek government has reintroduced stricter lockdown measures in Athens specifically. It seems very possible at this stage that the situation escalates and the chance to play in the city is taken off the table.
There’s still time to sort out the second leg. Arsenal and Benfica had a deadline of 11pm on Tuesday night to confirm plans for the first leg, so they presumably have until next Tuesday to confirm the second. We’ll see how things pan out.