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UEFA on Tuesday announced that Manchester United and Arsenal’s first leg match in the last 32 of the Europa League have been moved to Italy, as coronavirus restrictions hit travel across Europe.
United will face Spain’s Real Sociedad in their away leg at Juventus’ Allianz Stadium in Turin, while Arsenal will travel to the Stadio Olimpico in Rome to face Benfica.
In a statement, UEFA said that both matches would take place as originally scheduled on February 18, with United kicking off at 1755 GMT and Arsenal 2000 GMT respectively.
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Molde’s home leg with Hoffenheim, which would come first which is scheduled for 2000 GMT on the same day, has been moved to Villarreal’s Estadio de la Ceramica.
United’s match was moved to the home of the Italian champions after the Spanish government on Tuesday extended a ban on flights from Britain, Brazil, and South Africa from February 16 to March 2, in an attempt to stem the spread of new Covid-19 variants.
As it stands, only legal residents or nationals of Spain and the neighboring micro-state of Andorra are currently allowed in on flights from these countries.
This is the fourth time that Spain has extended its restrictions on arrivals from Britain, which were initially put in place at the end of December.
Arsenal meanwhile cannot make their way to Lisbon as the UK has ruled that only essential travel to and from Portugal is permitted thus ensuring the change in plans.
Spain’s decision to extend the ban on arrivals from the UK could also mean Chelsea’s visit to Atletico Madrid in the Champions League on February 23 is also moved.
Spanish media report that La Liga leaders Atletico are considering Bucharest or Genoa in Italy as alternatives.
Footballs however expressed mixed feelings when the announcement was made on Tuesday.
AFRICA TODAY NEWS, NEW YORK