Most fans watching the Champions League final will do so as a neutral, but who should they be rooting for in the latter stages of the competition to maximise their chances of an entertaining spectacle?
We’ve looked at every final since the tournament’s inception as the European Cup back in 1956 to work out the ideal combination of location, competitors and officials.
This year sees the Champions League final being staged in Cardiff for the first time, but the UK as a whole is no stranger to the big occasion. This will be the 12th final staged on the British mainland, making it the most popular destination for the showpiece event of European club football, and the number of goals scored makes it an easy decision for UEFA to return there. With 33 goals scored in the 11 previous finals, nearby France is the only regular host to have seen more goals scored per match.
Nationality of finalists
When the semi-final draw was made, pitting the two Madrid clubs against each other and guaranteeing that one would make the final, the expectation for goals rose still further. Finals involving a team from La Liga have seen a whopping average of 3.54 goals scored – 85 across 24 matches – which dwarfs that of any of the other ‘big five’ leagues. With French and Italian representatives seeing the net bulge just 2.46 and 2.33 times per game respectively, the Spanish influence will hopefully be the more dominant.
There appears to be something about the pressure of trying to win a first Champions League title that makes goals more elusive. Across the nine finals in which neither competitor has won the trophy before, goals have flowed at a disappointing rate of just two per game. However, add in at least one club already to have claimed European football’s most prestigious piece of silverware and the goal rate shoots up, so as long as we avoid an Atletico Madrid versus Monaco final there shouldn’t be a shortage of entertainment.
Nationality of referee
The officials play an important part in any game and the Champions League final is no different. When we looked back over the nationality of the referee we found that Dutch and English officials presided over far more goals than those from any other regularly-represented nation. With Mark Clattenburg having taken charge of last year’s final we’re unlikely to see the honour bestowed upon an Englishman this time around, so let’s hope that a Dutchman leads the teams out in Cardiff.