Sporting Clube de Portugal hope to tread in the footsteps of Feyenoord, Real Madrid CF, FC Internazionale Milano and FC Barcelona in the UEFA Cup this season. Victory for the Lisbon side at the Estádio José Alvalade next Wednesday would make them the fifth team in European club competition history to win a final on home soil.
Feyenoord were the last to do so, defeating BV Borussia Dortmund 3-2 in the 2002 UEFA Cup final in Rotterdam, while Madrid were the first when they beat AC Fiorentina at the Santiago Bernabéu to lift the European Champion Clubs' Cup for a second time in 1957. UEFA had awarded them hosting rights the previous summer, and the Merengues took advantage with a 2-0 triumph.
Inter were next - the San Siro providing an enhancing context for the talents of Helenio Herrera's side as they edged past SL Benfica 1-0 in the same competition in 1965. Then there was Barcelona's 2-1 victory over R. Standard de Liège, in front of 100,000 fans at Camp Nou, in the 1982 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup.
A home success does not always follow, however. Juventus FC lost the final of the 1965 Inter-Cities Fairs Cup at their Stadio Comunale in Turin, Mate Fenyvesi's goal securing the trophy for Ferencvárosi TC. AS Roma's party also fell flat against Liverpool FC in the 1984 European Cup, when they lost on penalties after a 1-1 draw.
Still, the positives seem to outweigh the negatives where playing on home ground is concerned. Manchester United FC and Liverpool's first acquaintance of the European Cup came at Wembley stadium in London, in 1968 and 1977 respectively. The former Wembley also suited West Ham United FC against TSV 1860 München in the 1965 Cup Winners' Cup.
Nor did local knowledge harm AFC Ajax's chances against Inter in Rotterdam in 1972, or those of Dortmund against Juventus at the Olympiastadion 25 years later - both in the European Cup. In the Cup Winners' Cup, meanwhile, FC Bayern München did not have far to travel after their 1967 defeat of Rangers FC - the game having been staged at nearby Nuremberg. RSC Anderlecht had an even shorter journey after their 4-2 Heysel stadium thriller against West Ham in 1976.
To every rule, however, there is an exception. Witness FC Steaua Bucuresti's European Cup humbling of Barcelona in Seville in 1986. A decade later, Italian hubris was very nearly pricked but Juventus overcame Ajax in another penalty shootout in Rome. In fact, the only true home banker was the 1964 Fairs Cup final, contested by Real Zaragoza and Valencia CF, and won by the former at Camp Nou.
Having dramatically eliminated AZ Alkmaar in the semi-finals, only PFC CSKA Moskva now stand between Sporting and glory on home turf. The Alvalade expects.
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