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Europa League: Covid-19 forces eight teams to play at neutral venues

Seville v FC Internazionale - UEFA Europa League Final
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Several teams have been forced to play Europa League’s knockout stages on neutral grounds due to Covid-19 restrictions.

The impact of the Coronavirus pandemic keeps growing in the world of football. As we’re halfway through one of the most anticipated weeks of the fixture calendar, the absence of fans has never felt greater. The Champions and the Europa League are still terrific to watch, but undoubtedly a little poorer without the incredibly loud cheers.

In fact, not only were the teams stripped away from having supporters in their stands, but some have also lost the ability to play at their own stadiums. With the Covid-19 restrictions in place, clubs from the most affected areas had to face a hard truth: they could play away from home, or not play at all.

At Europa League’s Round of 32, four matches needed to be changed to neutral venues in order to keep the teams from undergoing a mandatory isolation period.

Real Sociedad vs Manchester United – Juventus Stadium in Turin

If someone told us a Europa League match was to be played at Juventus’ Stadium, we’d probably think something had gone wrong for the Bianconeri. So why are a Spanish and an English team playing in Italy? According to the Spanish government, no travelers arriving from the UK are allowed due to the new Coronavirus variant. Therefore, the Red Devils have been banned from playing in Spain. Moreover, United had to ask Real Sociedad to meet in a different country.

Wolfsberger vs Tottenham – Puskas Arena in Budapest

We know an underdog when we see one. This Austrian side may cause Mourinho some troubles as they have nothing to lose. In fact, Wolfsberger never made it past the UEL’s Group Stage before. Now, they will have to play their first-ever knockout-stage fixture away from their home. Since Austria has also banned English travelers from their territory, the teams will have to face each other in Budapest.

Molde FK vs Hoffenheim – Estadio Municipal Nuevo Los Carmenes in Granada

Eliteserien’s runners-up have perhaps been dealt with the worst blowout of mentioned eight teams. In fact, Molde will be playing Hoffenheim a long way from home this Thursday. Norway has banned travelers from Germany. Therefore, the teams will have to face each other in the south of Spain at Granada’s stadium.

Benfica vs Arsenal – Stadio Olimpico in Rome

This time around, the game’s venue wasn’t shifted because of an English team. In fact, Arsenal were forced to look for a neutral place to face Benfica. The UK doesn’t allow any visitors from Portugal. The British authorities placed the territory on their red list after the first cases of the Brazilian Covid-19 variant appeared. Although Benfica initially refused to meet the Gunners on neutral grounds, the Glorioso ended up understanding that the match could only happen if they caved on this matter.

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