The football season has returned in style with lots of goals in boots waiting to hit the net across the various leagues in Europe.
Meanwhile, the 2020/21 Premier League season thus far can’t be ignored as lots of goals have already been scored in just 3 rounds of games with some upsets handed out thus far.
However, we’ll be taking a look at how playing games behind closed doors will affect the big and supposedly small sides in England.
Fans are a major constituent of the game and the aggressiveness of some fans on the stands is one of the reasons why some Premier League grounds are fortresses.
Rival teams travel to these venues and are intimidated from the start by the stadium capacity, number of fans, and the jeers and boos that come from these home fans. The atmosphere is just electric and is to the detriment of the opposing side and this is a well-established fact.
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The likes of Liverpool at Anfield, Manchester City at the Etihad, Manchester United at Old Trafford, amongst others serve up an intimidating atmosphere for visiting sides.
However, this hasn’t been the case since the season kicked off. Players only have rival players on the pitch to contend with, alongside the absence of fans in stadia due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
We’ve seen games where the home teams should normally get wins, turn on their heads, and end in a loss or a hard-fought victory, and the absence of fans is a factor that can not be overlooked.
Just last week, Leicester City beat Manchester City 5:2 at the Etihad with the away side having 3 penalties in the process. I daresay, this wouldn’t have been the case if City had the bulk of their fans in the stands.
They would have screamed the chills down the spine of the referee and force him to overlook some of those penalty decisions.
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Leeds United traveled to Anfield and almost gave the Reds a run for their money. The penalty decisions have increased considerably thus far this season, and the absence of fans has played a part.
A perfect scenario is the Premier League game between Brighton and Manchester United at the Amex on Matchday 3. The home side dominated the game and got a well-deserved equalizer in added time.
Regardless, the referee refused to end the game after exceeding added time, thus allowing the Red Devils to go down the other end and win a penalty that the referee called after the final whistle had gone.
One can only imagine how this game would have turned out if fans were in the stadium with the majority being in support of the home side. I can bet that the referee would have ended the game after Brighton’s equalizer as the boos and jeers for the whistle to go off in favor of the home side would have forced his hand.
Meanwhile, the penalty call was a valid one. The absence of fans in stadia doesn’t favor anyone. In my opinion, teams will get as good as they get.
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The smaller teams can mount more upsets if they can take the game to the bigger sides on their turf while the bigger sides who see some venues as a no-go will go there and feel less pressure and even get a result as expected.
We look forward to matchday 4 to see how it pans out for the big and small sides in the absence of fans to cheer them on their home turfs. Here are two games with high upset possibility ratings:
Chelsea versus Crystal Palace at Stamford Bridge. The Blues haven’t been at their best yet. Remember that Roy Hodgson’s men beat Man United 3:1 at Old Trafford on matchday 2.
Leeds United versus Manchester City at Elland Road. This will be a tactical showpiece between Marcelo Bielsa and Pep Guardiola and there are many sites where this game can be streamed. Could this be the first upset by a newly promoted side against last season’s top six? We await!