Football Features

Fallen fortresses: Six famous home grounds in danger of becoming a walk in the park

By Mohamed Moallim

Published: 17:30, 11 March 2024

They often say home is where the heart is.

Whether chasing a championship or promotion or staving off relegation, every successful club is virtually unbeaten on its patch.

Take a look at this current season if you want any further proof. Liverpool, Bayer Leverkusen, Inter, Paris Saint-Germain, Real Madrid, Benfica, and PSV Eindhoven, who lead their respective league, have two home losses (across 84 league matches) between each other.

However, not all stadiums are bulletproof. Some that were once are now in despair. As follows are recent domestic and European champions who have witnessed the aura of their grounds evaporate in recent months, if not years.

Old Trafford (Manchester United)

In the post-Ferguson era, Manchester United’s wait to win a Premier League title continues. Under their legendary boss, Old Trafford was a place opposition teams dreaded going. That is no longer true, with the Red Devils often disappointing their home support. This latest campaign is among the lowest points a decade after Sir Alex Ferguson stood down.

United have lost eight home games in all competitions this season, their most since 2020-21 (also they last lost more in a single campaign in 1973-74 (9). Most recently against Everton, they conceded 23 shots against Manchester United today; only against Wolves in March 2010 (24) have the Merseyside-based club had more in a Premier League away game without scoring on record (since 2003-04).

With five home matches remaining guaranteed, they need to be perfect, but that’s easier said than done, with Liverpool and Arsenal among those set to visit.

Stamford Bridge (Chelsea)

Further down England we go, and Stamford Bridge has seen better days. You couldn’t buy an away win during Jose Mourinho’s first spell, and his predecessors did well to carry the torch. But a lack of stability — management revolving door, scattergun transfer approach leading to wholesale upheaval of personnel — is costing them on the pitch. A look at their past 19 league matches at home, and they’ve picked up more losses than wins (7-5). It’s a far cry from when the aforementioned ‘special one’ did not lose any of his first 77 Premier League home games as Chelsea manager

Johan Cruyff Arena (Ajax)

Another fallen giant can be found in the Dutch capital. In the last 13 years, Ajax has been crowned Eredivisie champion on seven occasions. An eighth since the 2010/11 season will elude them following a disastrous start, which has only snowballed into the club performing their worst season in five decades.

It’s not a recent decline, with this being on the cards for at least two years; the Amsterdammers have won 13 of their last 27 top-flight home matches, as many as in their previous 15, which puts things into better context. Their record in Europe at the Johan Cruyff Arena this season has been nothing to write home about (one win, two draws and two losses).

Stadio Diego Armando Maradona (Napoli)

No team electrified Europe in 2022/23 more than Napoli, though Manchester City might have something to say; their brand of swashbuckling football resulted in the club’s first Serie A title since the Diego Maradona days over thirty years ago.

Luciano Spalletti’s men seemed to be getting started, but the wheels soon came off, with him exiting before results on the pitch confirmed the meekest of title defences.

Rudi Garcia, Walter Mazzarri, and now Francesco Calzona have sat on the hot seat. Yet, the Parthenopeans lost four of their last 13 home Serie A games, as many defeats as in their previous 26 home league games. The hope is that Calzona steers them into calmy waters before a badly needed summer reset.

Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan Stadium (Sevilla)

Unlike the previous clubs mentioned in this article, Sevilla is not a decorated league winner; its sole domestic success came nearly eight decades ago. They’ve certainly made up for their lack of La Liga success on the continental stage.

Los Nervionenses have picked up a record seven Europa League trophies. Last season’s triumph allowed them to enter the Champions League. But they’ve faltered, winning none of their home matches (one draw and two losses). This saw them finish bottom of Group B, meaning they have no opportunity to defend their Europa League crown.

Things are not any better domestically, with Sevilla not yet out of the relegation woods; most recently, at home, they beat Atlético de Madrid while keeping a clean sheet. To illustrate their malaise, Quique Sánchez Flores’ side has yet to string together back-to-back home wins without conceding.

Villa Park (Aston Villa)

The arrival of Unai Emery has transformed Aston Villa’s fortunes. The Birmingham-based club is now chasing an unlikely place in next season’s Champions League. However, things have gone awry of late, threatening a top-four finish. A humbling 4-0 loss to rivals Tottenham last time out means Villa have lost three of their last four home games in the Premier League (one win), as many defeats as they suffered across their first 23 home matches under Unai Emery in the competition (18 wins and two draws).

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