Belfast Telegraph

Friday 25 July 2014

Ancelotti desperate to end Real's misery

Dreamer: Carlo Ancelotti has eyes on the glittering prize
Dreamer: Carlo Ancelotti has eyes on the glittering prize

Carlo Ancelotti will attempt to succeed where the likes of Jose Mourinho, Fabio Capello and Manuel Pellegrini failed tonight by finally ending Real Madrid's wait for a 10th European Cup title when they take on arch-rivals Atletico Madrid in Lisbon.

Ancelotti is Real's 11th coach since they last conquered Europe back in 2002 under Vicente del Bosque and the club's quest for 'La Decima' (the 10th) has increasingly turned into an obsession for the big-spending Spanish giants.

Ancelotti has already done better than some of the biggest names in the game by getting Madrid back into the final – the first time they have graced the showpiece since Zinedine Zidane's famous volley saw them beat Bayer Leverkusen 2-1 at Hampden 12 years ago – but the Italian knows that is only part of the battle, with all Madridistas now desperate for Real to get their hands on the trophy again.

Madrid's Portuguese superstar Cristiano Ronaldo, whose 16 goals in this season's competition are a record, said: "It is a moment that all Madridistas are dreaming about – the 'decima'.

"It is a trophy we have been looking to win for many years. Real Madrid have wanted it for a long time. Since the first day we came here, we've felt that positive pressure to win the Champions League. We feel like we are now one small step away from winning."

Long-serving defender Sergio Ramos, who has won pretty much every other honour in the game but is playing in his first Champions League final, added: "It's a unique experience. It's a reward for all the sacrifice and hard work over so many years.

"Although we look it from the perspective of the group, this is the pay-off for the work the team has put in over the last few years, during which time we hadn't been fortunate enough to reach the final. At last the time has come to experience this amazing moment."

Atletico have already caused a major upset this year by beating Real and Barcelona to the Primera Division title –- their first since 1996 – and now they have a chance of adding the Champions League crown in what will be the first European Cup final between two teams from the same city.

Diego Simeone, who has already won the league, Copa del Rey and Europa League in just three seasons as Atletico coach, said: "It's the fruit of the labour that we've been doing for nearly three years.

"We responded well in the Europa League a year and a half ago, if I remember rightly. We still have the same humility, the same group ethic."

Both clubs have had injury concerns surrounding key players in the lead-up to the final.

For Real, Pepe and Karim Benzema both remain doubts but Ronaldo is expected to be fit despite struggling with a knock that saw him miss last weekend's league win over Espanyol. Long-term knee injury victim Jese is definitely out though, as is the suspended Xabi Alonso.

Atletico, meanwhile, are waiting to discover if attacking duo Diego Costa and Arda Turan will be able to feature after both picked up injuries in the Rojiblancos' title-winning 1-1 draw against Barcelona last Saturday.

Costa, especially, looked certain to miss the final with a hamstring problem but both he and Arda were able to take a low-key part in group training on Thursday night and it remains to be seen if either will be able to play in Lisbon.

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