Arsenal to Take on Benfica in Greece Rather Than London As Match Location Moved
English Teams Are on the Move
The move comes 72 hours after the first leg of the round-of-32 clash was moved from Lisbon to Rome, as a result of COVID-19-related travel restrictions placed by the UK government on people returning from Portugal.
“UEFA confirms that the UEFA Europa League round-of-32 second leg between Arsenal and Benfica will now take place at the Stadio Georgios Karaiskakis in Piraeus, Greece,” the governing body of European football said in a statement.
“UEFA would like to thank Arsenal and Benfica for their close cooperation and support, as well as the Hellenic Football Federation, Olympiacos, and the Greek authorities for their assistance and agreeing to host the match in question,” UEFA added.
While the venue has changed, UEFA also confirmed that the match’s date and time would go ahead as planned, with the kickoff coming at 18:55 Central European Time on February 25.
UEFA have now officially moved seven different Champions League and Europa League fixtures due to COVID-19 travel restrictions. All but one of the matches – Norwegian outfit Molde vs German side 1899 Hoffenheim – involve a Premier League team.
No Home Fixtures Could Be a Blessing in Disguise for Arsenal
With neither Benfica nor Arsenal benefiting from a home fixture, the Gunners may start to fancy their chances against the 37-time Primeira Division champions.
While Benfica have never lost at home in the Europa League, including 15 wins in the knockout stage, the Eagles have struggled on the road, winning just one of their last six away fixtures in the competition.
Arsenal, on the other hand, have enjoyed their travels a bit more. The runners-up of the 2018/19 edition of the competition have gone unbeaten in their last nine European away games (not including the 2018/19 Europa League final), including a 1-0 victory over Olympiacos in Athens at this stage of the competition last year.
Alexandre Lacazette scored a simple tap in from a cross in the final 10 minutes of the match to give Arsenal the win. However, the Gunners were then knocked out of the competition during the return leg in London as the Greek outfit scored in the last minute of extra time to win 2-1 and go through on away goals.