Arsenal may play Europa League last-32 tie against Benfica at neutral venue

The first leg of Arsenal's Europa League tie against Benfica next month could be played at a neutral venue as concerns grow over new variants of coronavirus.

The Gunners are due to face the Portuguese giants in Lisbon on February 18, with the second leg of the last-32 tie taking place at the Emirates a week later.

But talks are now taking place over switching that first leg to a new venue on safety grounds.

Concerns over new coronavirus variants in Portugal are believed to be gathering within government, with cases in the country soaring in recent weeks.

The UK government website currently says mainland Portugal is considered to be 'in a state of emergency' as local authorities put measures in place to stop the spread of the virus.

Arsenal are said to be happy to play at a neutral venue, although Benfica would prefer that the match was played at their Estadio da Luz ground.

Elite sports teams and players are given travel exemptions when it comes to fulfilling fixtures around the world during the pandemic, with governments recognising the need to travel to work.

Arsenal are one of four English teams in the last-32 of the Europa League ahead of the tournament's resumption next month, with Manchester United dropping down from the Champions League to join them, Tottenham and Leicester.

United face Spanish side Real Sociedad, Spurs take on Austrian outfit Wolfsberger and Leicester have a tie against Slavia Prague, with all the Premier League sides scheduled to be away in the first legs.

In the Champions League, Manchester City take Borussia Moenchengladbach, Liverpool have RB Leipzig and Chelsea were drawn against Atletico Madrid.

All of the English teams are away in those first legs also.

Will Arsenal win the Europa League? Have your say in the comments below

Sign up for the Mirror Football newsletter here

Source: Read Full Article