Yesterday news broke that Arsenal and Benfica were determined to make sure their knockout stage in the Europa League maintained it’s two-legged format. The issue arose due to pandemic restrictions and Benfica being from Portugal.
The initial suggestion was that both matches could be played in Rome, while a few other places were offered as potential locations. Today, Arsenal released a statement that announced there will be two legs played.
“The first leg, which is Benfica’s ‘home’ fixture, will be played at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome on February 18, at 8pm (UK time).”
“Our ‘home’ fixture will be played at the Georgios Karaiskakis Stadium in Athens, Olympiacos’ stadium, on February 25. Kick-off has yet to be confirmed.”
So there it is. Neither team will get a true match at their home stadium as they play in Rome and Greece. What’s interesting, or unfortunate, is that the away goal rule will still be in place, despite the fact that neither team ever really plays at home and both are playing away.
Arsenal’s statement continues saying, “*Uefa has stated that in the event of a draw over two legs, away goals will count double.“
It doesn’t give me a great feeling. It already has this feeling of being a really key aspect. Neither team at home, but expected to have that same edge that put the away goal rule in place to begin with?
I can’t say I’m pleased about it, even if I fast forward and find out it does end in Arsenal’s favorite. Why they couldn’t leave it out is something UEFA may explain, but until then, Arsenal better come ready to play away from home.
Update: Shortly after this was announced, the Greek government imposed a stricter lockdown which has led Arsenal to seek other arrangements. The leg in Rome is still scheduled, but Arsenal will announce their locale in the near future.