The Europa League returns later this week and Arsenal take on Benfica in the round of 32.
The effect of the global pandemic has made everything ridiculously complicated. Arsenal aren’t allowed to step foot in Portugal and Benfica can’t come and play in England due to the new regulations.
UEFA had to find a solution and we will now play in neutral venues.
The game this week will be held in Rome at AS Roma’s Stadio Olimpico. The second leg is scheduled to take place at The Georgios Karaiskakis Stadium – home of Greek champions Olympiacos.
The away goals rule
Although both legs are taking place in neutral venues, the away goals rule will still stand. That is really weird considering that both clubs will be far away from their homes, but UEFA have no interest in eliminating that rule.
Benfica will be considered as the home side in Rome on Thursday, while the roles will be reversed a week later when the two sides meet in Greece to decide who goes through to the next round.
Arsenal have to be at their best
Winning the Europa League is Arsenal’s best chance of making it into next season’s Champions League. Mikel Arteta will have to be wary of Benfica, even though they have been in terrible form this season.
Jorge Jesus’ men have won just twice in the league since the turn of the year. They are 10 points behind league leaders Sporting, and it looks like their dreams of winning the Portuguese crown is hanging by a thread now.
That will make them want to go all out against Arsenal this week and we should be cautious.
Form goes out of the window in a knockout competition, and Arteta has to make sure that his side are at their absolute best on Thursday.