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Madrid or Barcelona? Who really has home comfort in La Liga returns

An empty Camp Nou or Real Madrid in their B-team's 6,000 capacity stadium? While away teams prosper in the Bundesliga, Spanish football wonders who really has the home advantage as football's June 11 return approaches.

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La Liga experts trying to predict how the final 11 rounds of matches might pan out have highlighted the fact that Real Madrid have six of their games at home while Barcelona have only five.

That points to an advantage for Zinedine Zidane’s team but results from the first three rounds of games in Germany’s Bundesliga in their restart suggest home advantage doesn’t count for much.

And the fact that Real Madrid’s home games will not be played at the Santiago Bernabeu further complicates things. One former Barcelona player believes that can only favour his old side.

First to those results from Germany’s 27 matches played since the restart. They show just five home wins, 10 draws and 12 away wins.

So is this clear evidence of clubs suffering without home support?

It’s true that home teams were not dominating in the Bundesliga before the coronavirus stopped play. Not since matchday 19 in late January have the majority of matches in one weekend ended in home wins.

But it’s little secret that players and coaches hate performing behind closed doors and home fans are missed more than travelling away fans.

“Players will get used to it but the first matches will be difficult,” former Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde says.

He took charge of Barcelona last season when they faced Las Palmas behind closed doors.

“The players will get mentally prepared but it is still tough,” he said.

Alaves midfielder Manu Garcia said of his team’s notoriously noisy fans: “For us playing without fans is very sad and it really weakens us because our supporters really make a difference.”

All this points to Real Madrid not really gaining much by having one more home game than Barcelona.

Which brings us back to the fact that Real Madrid are not really playing at home.

Building work at the Santiago Bernabeu means Zinedine Zidane’s team will play their remaining home games at their B-team’s 6,000 capacity Alfredo di Stefano stadium, at their out-of-town training ground.

There were some suggestions Barcelona could ask to play at their B-team’s venue, the Johan Cruyff Stadium, also out-of-town and also with a capacity of 6,000.

But the Barcelona players have told the club they want to stay at the Camp Nou.

Former Barcelona forward Juan Antonio Pizzi, who coached Valencia in an empty stadium away to Basel in 2016, can understand why.

Pizzi says: “I would try to change as little as possible.

“I think, even without spectators, Madrid would have felt more comfortable playing in the Bernabeu than in the Di Stefano.”

Pizzi believes Barcelona’s imposing arena could intimidate opponents even more when it’s empty.

“Both the Camp Nou and the Santiago Bernabeu are imposing stadiums,” he says.

“They are big stadiums with big pitches and without spectators you notice that even more.”

So Barcelona’s Nou Camp will play in their favour, but only for five games.

While Madrid have home advantage six times, but lose the Santiago Bernabeu factor.

And it will all mean nothing if the results pan out as they are doing in Germany with away sides enjoying playing behind closed doors far more than their home opponents.

SourceDPA
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