As things stand, there have only been two occasions during the illustrious 54-year history of the Champions League (or the European Cup, as it was known pre-1993) when a club emanating from the host city of the final has managed to hoist the trophy aloft – both coming over 45 years ago.
The first instance occurred way back in 1957, a year after the competition’s inception in 1955/56, when Jose Villalonga Llorente‘s vaunted Real Madrid side rolled Fiorentina over on the hallowed turf of the Santiago Bernabeu and eventually ran out 2-0 winners.
Eight years later in 1965, Internazionale secured their second successive European title, this time on home soil, beating Portuguese giants Benfica (for whom Eusebio was playing at the time) by a single goal to lift the trophy in front of an 85,000-strong crowd at the San Siro in Milan.
Roma came close to adding their names to the ridiculously elite list in 1984 but, thanks chiefly to the ‘spaghetti legs’ technique Liverpool ‘keeper Bruce Grobelaar chose to employ during the penalty shoot-out, it was Joe Fagan‘s side that left the Stadio Olimpico with ‘big ears’ under their collective arms, rather than the Romans themselves.
This season’s final is to be held at Wembley, the ‘home of English football’, which has thoughtfully been located in one of the most inconveniently accessible areas of London’s suburban waste ground.
It will be the first time that this incarnation of the stadium will have hosted UEFA’s glittering showpiece (the final was staged at ‘Old Wembley’ four times – in 1968, 1971, 1978 and most recently in 1992) and, theoretically at least, there will be three London-based clubs hoping to etch their names in history by continuing the aforementioned pattern.
Whilst Manchester United, Liverpool, Nottingham Forest and Aston Villa have all tasted European glory, England’s capital has never managed to produce a Champions League winner. In the recent past, both Chelsea and Arsenal have matched Leeds United’s (1975) feat of reaching the final, but neither club is yet to venture that one, critical step further in the competition.
After last season’s domestic heroics, Tottenham have also afforded themselves an opportunity to add to their single Cup Winners Cup and two UEFA Cup triumphs during the 1960’s, 70’s and 80’s by snaring European football’s most distinguished prize. All extemely premature bombast aside, the fact remains that Spurs can actually win the Champions League this season.
Both Chelsea and Arsenal got their 2010/11 European campaigns off to consummate starts earlier this week by racking up 4-1 and 6-0 wins over MSK Zilina and SC Braga respectively. Chelsea are yet to drop a point in the Premier League this season, and given their juggernaut-like propensity to comfortably win games by three-0r-more goals this season, must be tagged as the favourites of the London contingent to go all the way in this year’s tournament.
Arsenal were almost magisterial at times as they systematically deconstructed Braga on Wednesday evening and, if they continue to consistently display that kind of grace against all who befall them, then reaching the final will almost be a dead-cert. However, the same lingering doubts over the maturity of the majority of Arsene Wenger‘s burgeoning squad remain, and will only be truly admonished once a tangible pinnacle of their ongoing development is achieved i.e. silverware – such is the Devil’s bargain.
Tottenham represent the outsider’s choice. With no Champions League bloodline, it would be easy to prematurely dismiss Harry Redknapp‘s outfit as also-rans. However, after an encouraging start to proceedings (a 2-2 away draw with seasoned campaigners Werder Bremen is nothing to sniff at) and with playmakers aplenty, it looks like Spurs have lost none of the perpetual momentum that saw them crack the top-four monotony of the Premier League last season.
In fairness, it’s not really a question of whether a London-based side can win the Champions League this term, of course they all can. The actual nub of the matter is whether or not a London-based side will win the Champions League this season – an entirely different proposition altogether.