Both legs of Arsenal’s Europa League clash against Benfica this month are set to be played at a neutral venue in Rome due to coronavirus travel restrictions.
The Gunners were due to travel to Lisbon on February 18 for the first leg of their round-of-32 clash with the Portuguese giants, with Benfica then travelling to the Emirates a week later on February 25.
However, government rules regarding travel between the UK and Portugal mean that can no longer happen, with the clubs having been in talks with Uefa to relocate the matches.
Arsenal would have been forced to isolate for 10 days after returning from Portugal – with the usual exceptions for elite athletes scrapped – while Benfica would not have been able to enter the UK at all.
According to the Evening Standard, Arsenal and Benfica have now agreed to move both ties to a neutral venue free from travel restrictions in order for the fixtures to take place.
Instead of travelling to Lisbon next Thursday, the Gunners will now travel to Rome instead – the second leg is also expected to be played in the Italian capital, though talks are still ongoing.
The venue for the match is not yet clear – though is likely to be the Stadio Olimpico, home to both Roma and Lazio – and an official announcement is expected in the next 24 hours.
Arsenal are not alone in having seen their European fixture moved to a neutral location, with both Liverpool and Manchester City suffering a similar fate in the Champions League.
Both teams take on German opponents – Liverpool face off against RB Leipzig, while City take on Borussia Monchengladbach – and those matches will all now be played in Budapest.
Tottenham have so far been spared the need to move their own Europa League round-of-32 clash with Austrian side Wolfsberger, with elite athletes still being given special dispensation to enter and leave the country without needing to isolate.
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