Chelsea have done the unthinkable by knocking out Champions League holders Barcelona and made it to the final in Munich, only to have to play Bayern Munich.
This has led to many asking whether it is fair for a team to be playing at their home ground in a major European final.
Will playing at home really give Bayern an advantage over Roberto di Matteo’s side in on May 19 in the Allianz Arena?
At first instances you would assume that yes, it most probably would, and that is a fair assessment considering they play there most weeks.
The build up to the game will be the same as for every game, the players will most likely stay in their own homes longer than the Chelsea players and all the surroundings when they get there will be familiar.
All of the above suggests comfort for Jupp Heynckes’ side and to continue with their home routine will likely do a lot to prevent them tightening up ahead of the big occasion.
It could backfire of course, as all of the reasons above could also mean the preparations are not taken with the extra seriousness that a Champions League final may require.
While there is no chance they will take this manner consciously, familiarity may go someway to take the edge off of the spectacle – at the least it has made them favourites to take the cup home; or, well, keep it there anyway.
Chelsea have managed to get to the final past the current holders by cultivating a sense of the underdog and building on field unity by rallying against the odds, so going in as outsiders will help them to continue in that vein.
The Champions League final is a huge game and the pressure is immense, so perhaps playing in front of your home fans could heighten the nervous tension – if you are going to fail at the last, you certainly will not want to do it in front of the people that come and cheer you on every week.
However, this may not be the case as. Technically at least, neither team is playing at home, the final in chosen in advance and is usually a neutral venue, so it will be treated as such by UEFA.
This means fans from Chelsea and Bayern will get an equal amount of seats and then UEFA’s buddies will make up the other 60 per cent of the capacity crowd.
Distribution of tickets will mean an unfamiliar atmosphere for the Bundesliga side, where a lot of the usual electrified atmosphere will be dampened somewhat.
No doubt the neutral and commercial seats going will find their way into the hands of more home fans than away, but it will not be enough to emulate a regular home fixture and this may be disconcerting for the Bayern players.
Playing a major final at home has not always been favourable and there are a few examples past examples of sides failing when they had the supposed home advantage.
The 2005 (then named) UEFA Cup final was played in the Jose Alvalade stadium in Lisbon, Portugal. This was the home ground for Sporting Club, who were in the final facing CSKA Moscow from Russia.
It started very well for the home side as they dominated the first half and went in at the break 1-0 up thanks to a goal from Brazilian Rogerio. It went pear shaped in the second, however, as CSKA came back to storm to a 1-3 victory to lift the cup.
Similarly, a year earlier at Euro 2004 in Portugal the host nation made it all the way to the final at the Estadio da Luz, but were beaten by an Otto Rehhagel led Greece in one of the biggest upsets of all time in international football.
Chelsea may take heart from the fortunes of another English side that went to a European Cup final at the other side’s home ground – Liverpool played the 1984 showpiece in the Stadio Olimpico in Rome against AS Roma.
The Merseysiders took the lead through a Phil Neal goal, but were pegged back when Roberto Pruzzo struck just before half-time and the score stayed the same until it went down to penalty kicks.
This was the scene of Liverpool goalkeeper Bruce Grobbelaar’s famous ‘spaghetti legs’ routine to put off penalty taker Francesco Graziani, who proceeded to miss his kick and Alan Kennedy then converted to bring the cup back to Anfield.
These examples prove that playing at home in a final doesn’t necessarily mean you will gain an advantage.
Granted, Feyenoord’s UEFA Cup win in 2002 in Rotterdam and France and England’s World Cup wins on home soil, indicate there may be an advantage from being in familiar surroundings.
However, Chelsea can look to history for comfort and need not fear facing the German side in their own back yard – it’s a final, anything can happen.
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