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Domestic bliss tips the balance in Bayern’s favour

by Aidan Elder | May 24, 2013
ARJEN ROBBEN - He won't pass you the ball, but he will give you a hug

ARJEN ROBBEN – He won’t pass you the ball, but he will give you a hug

So it’s the Germans who are descending on Wembley. The numerous ‘Germans putting down their beach towels early’ gag has probably alerted you to that fact. It’s ok, Borussia Dortmund – we like you so we’ll let you get away with it:

For the fourth time in European Cup history teams from the same league will battle it out for the right to take Old Big Ears home. There’s been plenty of ‘familiarity breeds contempt’ style previews predicting a game closer than the odds suggest, but is that really what we should expect? Bayern finished miles ahead of Dortmund in the Bundesliga and handed Barcelona their asses on a plate in the semi-final, so they’re worthy favourites. Does league position make any difference when it comes to deciding ‘one nation’ European finals? The Paddy Power Blog has looked over the history books and found out that it probably does.

First of all, I should point out that there’s a limited sample size mainly due to the fact that prior to becoming the erroneously named ‘Champions League’ in 1992, it was impossible to have a one nation final because, ya know, it was actually for champions and not teams who scraped fourth place after vanquishing the mighty Wigan, QPR, Reading and Norwich in the closing weeks of the season.

To counteract that, I’ve also included the artist formerly known as the UEFA Cup finals too, a competition that gets about as much love as David Hasselhoff’s music in Britain, but is bizarrely popular elsewhere in Europe. I have bothered with the Cup Winners’ Cup or any other crap. In the 12 European finals that have been contested by teams from the same country, I’ve noticed the following trends:

  • 66.66% have been won by the team who finished higher in the league that year
  • 66.66% of one nation Champions League finals have gone the way of the team ranked lower in the league (but that’s only three games)
  • 43% of single leg finals has finished 3-0

Yes, 66.66% isn’t  exactly ‘whopping‘, but it does suggest that league form can’t be discounted, not matter how much ‘don’t rule out the plucky underdogs’ shtick you get from the plucky underdogs. In the 12 ‘one nation’ finals, the winner has finished higher in the domestic leg a not insignificant eight times.

If we rather selectively apply to blinkers to only Champions League finals, the reverse is true, with the trophy going to the lower ranked team 66.66% of the time. In 2000, a Real Madrid team that finished two points behind Valencia in La Liga hockeyed los Ches 3-0 in the decider, while three years later, AC Milan overcame 15 point sized Serie A chasm to beat Juventus on penalties.

The problem for Borussia Dortmund is they ended up finishing so far behind Bayern that the league champions weren’t even a smug Bavarian dot on the horizon. 25 points was the difference as the players popped the champagne corks and although Jurgen Klopp insists it’s down to his team concentrating on their European campaign and free-wheeling their way through the closing weeks of the Bundesliga season, the gap is alarming.

The biggest gap ever overcome in a European Cup or UEFA Cup/Europa League final was Milan’s aforementioned victory. In 2007, an Espanyol team that finished 22 points behind Sevilla in La Liga took them to penalties, but that’s the only occasion a gap this substantial has been overcome. And that wasn’t even really overcome.

In other semi-useful snippets, three of the seven single leg European finals contested between domestic rivals have gone to penalties, most recently the Manchester United and Chelsea Champions League final in which John Terry’s standing leg collapsed faster than Andy Carroll’s market value. Oddly, three of the seven single leg finals have finished 3-0 to the bigger club (Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid and Inter Milan) and if you think that vague stat may continue this time around, it’s 14/1 that Bayern win by that scoreline this time around.

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