Arsenal's Europa League second leg vs Benfica is thrown into CHAOS

Moved from Portugal, and now thrown out of Greece: Arsenal’s Europa League second leg away at Benfica is thrown into CHAOS and must be moved AGAIN with new Greek lockdown announced hours after they’d confirmed Athens as a new venue

  • There is still uncertainty over Arsenal’s Europa League last-32 tie vs Benfica
  • Arsenal’s away leg, set for Benfica on February 18, has been moved to Rome
  • Home leg, a week later, was initially confirmed for Athens amid Covid pandemic
  • But now Athens has been sent into a full lockdown until the end of February 

Arsenal’s ‘home’ leg of their last-32 Europa League tie against Benfica has been plunged into further chaos after Greece’s prime minister announced a full lockdown in Athens until February 28 to curb a surge in Covid-19 cases.

It had been confirmed on Tuesday that Olympiacos’ Georgios Karaiskakis Stadium would host Arsenal’s home leg due to Covid regulations of certain nations, after the away leg was earlier announced for Rome’s Stadio Olimpico Stadium.

But now plans are set to be re-considered once again after prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis announced Athens will be entering a new lockdown until the end of the month – with the home leg set for February 25. 

Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal side will travel abroad for both legs of their last-32 Europa League tie

The first leg, on February 18, was scheduled to be played at Benfica’s Estadio da Luz. But the UK has implemented strict quarantine rules around people returning from Portugal, which has forced the match to be moved from Lisbon to neutral territory.  

Portugal is on a ‘red list’ of countries drawn up by the UK government amid the ongoing Covid pandemic. 

And those strict regulations had caused uncertainty for the home leg too, with Benfica barred from entering England for the clash at the Emirates.

Athens was confirmed late on Tuesday night as the new venue for the second leg but that fixture is set to be moved again after the Greece prime minister made a televised address to the nation regarding the new lockdown.

The prime minister said: ‘Experience from the first wave of the pandemic, as well as from the lockdown after the Christmas holidays, shows that the faster the restrictions are applied, the faster they are lifted.

‘This is the reason for my decision today: To strike the Covid-19 outbreak before it spreads, reducing overall mobility. And to give our health system time, as vaccinations will proceed.’ 

Authorities had registered 1,526 infections on Tuesday, more than double the number recorded on Monday. 

Olympiacos’ Georgios Karaiskakis Stadium had been announced to host Arsenal’s ‘home’ leg

Arsenal vs Benfica is just one of several European ties that has been affected by the strict Covid travel restrictions between countries.

The first legs of Liverpool and Manchester City’s Champions League ties against RB Leipzig and Borussia Monchengladbach have been moved to Budapest given strict travel restrictions imposed in Germany.

The German government has banned most foreign travel into the country due to new Covid variants and sporting fixtures are not deemed as special circumstances. 

City’s last-16 tie with the Bundesliga outfit will now take place at the Puskas Arena in Budapest on February 24 after talks between the two clubs.

Hungary’s national stadium is also hosting Liverpool’s clash with Julian Nagelsmann’s RB Leipzig next Tuesday.

Chelsea’s away tie against Atletico Madrid, scheduled for the night before City’s game, will be played outside of Spain with it being confirmed for Bucharest, Romania.

Furthermore, the first leg of Manchester United’s Europa League last-32 knockout clash against Real Sociedad has been moved from Spain to take place in Turin, Italy. 

The Stadio Olimpico, in Rome, will host the first leg in which Benfica will be the home team

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