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PLAYING AWAY

She fell

It’s the same rules, the same number of players and the goals are the same size. So why is it harder to play away? FFT looks for answers to one of football’s great mysteries, and discovers it’s got quite a bit to do with you pesky fans. Sing up!

over!

Words Richard Edwards

Barcelona have done it just once in the Champions League knockout stages under Pep Guardiola, Manchester United could only do it as many times as relegated Blackpool last season and Leeds United once failed to do it at all the season after being crowned top-flight champions. It’s facts like these that make it one of football’s great mysteries: why is it so hard to win away?

Speaking in the run-up to Manchester United’s clash against Barcelona on neutral territory at Wembley back in May, Sir Bobby Charlton tried to explain why players were more comfortable on home territory. “I’m often asked how home advantage can be so important,” said Charlton. “Of course the crowd count for a great deal. But it’s more than that. It’s like being in your own house. You know exactly where everything is and precisely where you stand in relation to every piece of furniture.” That may go some way to explaining why teams thrive in front of their own supporters, but is it really that simple?

THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE HOME Jose Mourinho rarely disappoints in press conferences, and this one was no exception. “Everybody knows Mourinho doesn’t lose at Stamford Bridge. My record is unbeatable. It is amazing,” said the ever-modest maestro before his Inter side knocked Chelsea out of the Champions League at Stamford Bridge in February 2010.

In over three years at Chelsea, he never tasted defeat in a home league fixture. Even more remarkably, between February 23, 2002 and April 11, 2011 Mourinho’s clubs enjoyed unbeaten home league records – a nine-year and 150-match run that was finally ended when Sporting Gijon’s Miguel

Angel de las Cuevas popped up at the Bernabeu to seal a 1-0 win.

Closer to home, West Brom were alone in leaving Old Trafford last season with anything other than a tail dangling haplessly between their legs, as the Premier League champions won 18 of their 19 home games.

96 October 2011 FourFourTwo.com

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