The wait is almost over for the most eagerly awaited fixture of the European calendar, with Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid barely 24 hours away from their Champions League final collision.
The Spanish capital becomes the first city to produce an intra-city Champions League final, and what a deserving duo Real and Atletico have proved to be along the way.
Ahead of the Estadio da Luz curtain call, we take a moment to reflect on some of the latest news and opinion surrounding what promises to be one of the Champions League's most memorable climaxes.
BBC, Not as Easy as 1,2,3
Without the talents of Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo—the collective known as BBC—Real Madrid would not have garnered as much success this term.
However, the Bale/Benzema/Cristiano trio may have to go without its most localised central focus on Saturday, with BBC Sport reporting that Frenchman Benzema is a doubt, although Bale and Ronaldo have been cleared to play.
According to BBC Sport's Phil McNulty, however, two legs of the tripod may be all Carlo Ancelotti's side needs:
ESPN FC's Dermot Corrigan sees the absence of the Frenchman, along with Pepe and the suspended Xabi Alonso, as being slightly more daunting from a Real perspective:
Bale and Ronaldo have each shown the propensity to be game-winners in their careers—Bale having done so memorably in the Copa del Rey final, following his £86 million move from Tottenham.
Having said that, Champions League finals are usually decided on the smallest of margins, and few Real players have the poacher's nose of Benzema.
Atletico Edging Tactical Tug-of-War?
Atletico's crowning as La Liga champions last Saturday was by large part an achievement thanks to the intelligence of Diego Simeone, a man who has proved that money does not necessarily buy one happiness—at least not year upon year.
The Times' Rory Smith emphasises this very point in a recent comment:
The Argentinian has transformed his team in recent months, but The Guardian's Jonathan Wilson highlights the major tactical area he must get right on Saturday:
The Atlético right-back Juanfran, as he showed against Chelsea, is adept at getting forwards. In recent years, teams who have eliminated Real from the Champions League have tended to have a right-back who has exploited the space Cristiano Ronaldo inevitably leaves on that flank. Juanfran, though, with an unfamiliar figure in front of him, may tend to conservatism, leaving one of the potential flaws in this Real side unprobed.
Still, if Atlético can solve their issues of personnel, it is Real who have the bigger questions of system to answer.
Simeone has even impressed as much as to warrant Amy Lawrence of The Observer to nominate him for Manager of the Year:
It goes without saying that Real have spared no expense in constructing their glittering line-up, with Bale and Ronaldo's presences alone costing the club in excess of £150 million in transfer fees.
That's not to infer that Ancelotti is no strategic wit in his own right, but Simeone and Los Rojiblancos will have the underdog mentality to feed off as they seek a historic double.
In Search of La Decima
One inevitable pressure being piled on Real Madrid for their first Champions League final appearance since 2002 is "La Decima," their illustrious 10th European Cup triumph.
Matt Lawton of the Daily Mail spoke to Ancelotti—who can himself earn a remarkable achievement in matching Bob Paisley's record of three European Cup trophies—regarding this pressure and how he's relaxed about the whole affair, at least on the surface:
I don’t like people who say “I, I, I.” It’s embarrassing. It’s not me, to speak about me. I know Bob Paisley won it three times, in ’77, ’78 and ’81, no? So it would be an honour to join him, of course, but it is not my motivation.
To be part of that is bigger than any personal achievement. That is the most important thing. The Champions League has given me a lot already. I have won four, as a player and a manager. But this is about the Decima; the 10th title.
From the first day I arrived here it was about the Decima, because for Real Madrid this cup is special. I wouldn’t call it an obsession. Just a motivation.
However the Italian would like to phrase it, obsession, motivation "overbearing weight of the world," Saturday's finale is of special significance to one half of Madrid for a very particular reason.
And as UEFA shows through its official Twitter account, a certain Portuguese superstar is all too aware of the responsibilities he has in leading Los Merengues to victory:
First title or 10th, there shouldn't be much difference in what separates one Champions League crown from another.
However, that's the cruel truth to Real's self-earned success from down the decades, and this weekend will reveal whether the outfit can stand the heat in Lisbon.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!