Arsenal may face Benfica in one-off UEL tie due to Covid restrictions


rsenal’s Europa League clash with Benfica this month could be played as a one-off tie on neutral territory under new rules issued by tournament organisers Uefa.

The Gunners are due to face Benfica over two legs in the last-32 of the Europa League, but travel restrictions caused by Covid-19 are leading to issues.

Under current Government guidelines, Arsenal players and staff would be required to quarantine for 10 days on their return from the first leg in Lisbon on February 18 as Portugal is on the UK’s ‘red list’.

Those countries on the ‘red list’ force people travelling from them to isolate for 10 days upon arrival in the UK, which also causes issues for Arsenal’s second leg in London on February 25.

One solution would be to play the match at a neutral venue, and Uefa’s competition regulations for the Champions League and Europa League knockout phases allow for this possibility.

Under rule K.1.8 of the respective competitions’ rulebooks, it states “the Uefa administration … has the right to assign an alternative venue for any particular match or even to decide that either or both legs of the relevant round to be rescheduled and/or played in a neutral country (within the territory of a Uefa member association) and/or organised as a single leg”.

The rules also allow for ties to be reversed, which could be an option for the Leipzig vs Liverpool Champions League tie.

Currently flights to Germany from the UK are banned until February 17, the day after the Reds are due to play the away first leg of their tie.

Reversing the fixture might solve the issue if the flight ban is not extended, but would also mean Liverpool ceding home advantage for the decisive second leg.

Uefa managed to complete the final stages of the 2019-20 Champions League and Europa League competitions by playing a series of single-leg ties in Portugal and Germany respectively.

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