Why are Arsenal playing in Rome? Benfica Europa League venue explained

Liverpool face RB Leipzig in Budapest

Arsenal will face Benfica in Rome in the Uefa Europa League tonight.

The Gunners are in Italy, rather than Portugal, for the last-32 meeting.

Midfielder Thomas Partey has not travelled with the rest of his team as he continues to recover from a hamstring injury suffered in the recent defeat to Aston Villa.

“Thomas didn’t travel,” manager Mikel Arteta said on Wednesday. “He is not there yet. He is still training individually. Kieran (Tierney) has had one session with us and he is part of the squad.”

With a visit of in-form Premier League leaders Manchester City on Sunday and the prospect of the ‘home’ leg of their clash with Benfica being played in Athens next Thursday, Arteta may look to rotate his squad.

“It is very unusual,” Arteta said of the dynamic of a tie with two neutral venues.

“But as much as we can we have to try and maintain the integrity of the competition and the only way to do that at the moment is to play in different venues but at least play it over two legs and with away goals, as well.”

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Why is Benfica vs Arsenal in Rome?

The tie has had to be switched to a neutral venue after the UK government’s decision to place Portugal on a red list of countries affected by new coronavirus variants.

That meant the game, originally scheduled to take place at the Estadio da Luz in Lisbon, had to be moved with Stadio Olimpico in Rome chosen.

Where is the second leg?

The second leg will take place at the Georgios Karaiskakis Stadium in Athens on 25 February.

The game, which was due to be held at the Emirates Stadium, was moved with government regulations meaning those arriving from any red-list country must self-isolate for 10 days, with no exemptions for elite athletes.

Have any other games been moved?

Yes. Liverpool played RB Leipzig in Budapest in the Champions League with the first-leg of Manchester City’s tie with Borussia Monchengladbach also taking place in Hungary while Chelsea’s trip to Atletico Madrid next week has been switched from Spain to Bucharest in Romania.

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