Europa League returns amid complaints about COVID relocations.
Manchester United and Arsenal face tough ties when the Europa League returns for the knockout stages on Thursday amid complaints over the relocation of various matches due to coronavirus restrictions.
Both legs between Arsenal and Benfica have been moved to neutral venues with Thursday’s first clash taking place in Rome and the second leg in Athens.
United’s trip to Real Sociedad this week has also been switched to Turin.
Real Sociedad’s director of football, Roberto Olabe, criticised UEFA for what he sees as an unfair advantage should the Spanish side have to play the second leg in Manchester.
The Red Devils manager, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, is also in favour of a return to the one-game format.
“It’s not a decision we made but when one game is in a neutral venue, it’s a disadvantage to the team that doesn’t have the home game,” said Solskjaer.
However, there are no guarantees that Solskjaer’s side will progress against Real Sociedad, which boasts a collection of some of Europe’s most exciting young talents, allied to the experience of David Silva.
The carrot of a return to the Champions League is even more pressing for Arsenal.
After 19 seasons in Europe’s premier club competition between 1998 and 2016/17, the Gunners have spent the last four seasons in the Europa League with severe financial repercussions.
Tottenham Hotspur is another side which may have to pin its hopes of a Champions League return on Europa League success as it faces Austrian side Wolfsberg, with the first leg moved to Budapest.