European football returns this week for the Gunners as they ‘host’ Benfica in the UEFA Europa League in the round of 32 in which a huge cock-up has been made by the governing body that has put Arsenal and other clubs as an immediate disadvantage.
The North Londoners drew Portuguese outfit Benfica after a flawless group stage taking a maximum 18 points from six games. The opponents are also unbeaten winning three and drawing three in group D.
The interesting thing about a select few of the Europa League fixtures this round is that due to coronavirus neutral venues are being used for four fixtures (Arsenal vs Benfica, Real Sociedad vs Manchester United, Wolfsberg vs Tottenham and Molde FK vs Hoffenheim). The sides that have been put at a disadvantage are the home sides in the first leg:
- Real Sociedad
- Molde FK
Why are they given a disadvantage
The reason why some sides are given an advantage over the others is due to the traditional away goal rule. Arsenal will play their first leg fixture at AS Roma’s Stadio Olimpico as the ‘away’ side and the return leg in Stadio Georgios Karaiskakis as the ‘home’ side. Should the game go to extra time then Benfica will be allowed an additional 30 minutes to score an away goal for no reason whatsoever. This goes for the other fixtures above also.
Mikel Arteta on the #UEL venues: “Well it’s very unusual, but as much as we can we have to try to maintain the integrity of the competition. The only way to do it at the moment is to play it in neutral venues but at least over two legs and with away goals as well always present.” pic.twitter.com/aJVVmPu4sa
— TheAFCnewsroom (@TheAFCnewsroom) February 17, 2021
Mikel Arteta spoken the pre-match presser about the neutral venues: “Well it’s very unusual, but as much as we can we have to try to maintain the integrity of the competition. The only way to do it at the moment is to play it in neutral venues but at least over two legs and with away goals as well always present.”
There was no mention of the blunder by UEFA in the Arsenal press conference. It will be interesting if one of the teams are impacted by the issue.