Hundreds of extra flights have taken off from the UK, an estimated 70,000 fans are descending on Madrid – and two managers without a trophy to their name at their current sides joked easily with reporters as they prepare to compete for the biggest prize in club football.
Tottenham and Liverpool meet in the first all-English Champions League final since 2008 when they face each other in the Spanish capital on Saturday.
Their fans will share 33,226 tickets for the final, which takes place in the 68,000-capacity Wanda Metropolitano stadium, although many more will travel in the hope of finding a ticket, or just to soak up the occasion.
The Reds, who lost to Real Madrid in last year’s final, finished two places and 26 points above Spurs in the Premier League.
What was clear, behind the smiles and the occasional knockabout moments, was the very obvious and huge respect these two formidable managers have for each other, feelings shared by their players
Their style of play has been much praised this season, and their 97 points and one defeat are English records for a team finishing runners-up in the top flight.
But they have not won anything since manager Jurgen Klopp’s arrival in 2015 – and the German has lost his last six finals, including the Champions League final in 2013 with Borussia Dortmund and last year with Liverpool.
“All the circumstances were different, the teams were different,” said Klopp on Friday. “If I were the reason for losing six finals then everyone needs to worry. Last year was a world-class goal and two strange goals we normally don’t concede which defeated us.
“My career so far is not unlucky. I haven’t a problem with my career. My wife always asks me when the final game of the season is because since 2012, apart from 2017, my teams have been in finals.
“I don’t see myself as a loser and we would have a problem if I did.
Liverpool have won the European Cup or Champions League five times, most recently in 2005. They have twice been finalists since then – beaten in 2007 by AC Milan and last year by Real.
In contrast this is Spurs’ first ever final of the premier European club competition. And they have not won any trophy for the past 11 years, with their most recent silverware the 2008 League Cup.
Former Espanyol and Southampton boss Mauricio Pochettino is looking for the first trophy of his managerial career and has hinted he could leave and return to his native Argentina if he achieves it.
Pochettino has suggested the way the club is currently run needs to change. Spurs have not signed a single player since semi-final hero Lucas Moura in 31 January 2018.
In Friday’s pre-match news conference, he said: “Our team became very robust from the start of the season, 10 months ago.
“At that time we couldn’t bring in new players. As we couldn’t, we decided not to sell anybody. We sold Mousa Dembele in January to China because it was his dream.
“We haven’t been able to play in our new stadium; we had to play in Wembley until a couple of months ago.
“We have come to the crucial part of the season and all of that has made us strong. We have had to overcome those difficulties.”
This is the second of two all-English European finals in a week after Chelsea beat Arsenal 4-1 in Baku, Azerbaijan on Wednesday to win the Europa League.
The only previous Champions League final to contain two English sides was 2008 final when Manchester United beat Chelsea on penalties.
Team news – will Kane and Firmino play?
The biggest question about the line-ups by some distance is whether Tottenham striker Harry Kane will start.
The England captain, who has scored 24 goals for Spurs this season, says he is “ready to go” after recovering from ligament damage to his left ankle when he slipped in the quarter-final first leg against Manchester City.
Pochettino said on Friday that he had not made any final decision on his starting line-up, with the team due to train that evening.
“It’s difficult, you need to take a decision and tomorrow is another decision,” he said. “We have all the information – we will use every detail to try to win.
“You can use only 11 players from the beginning – that is the most painful situation.”
Klopp says Liverpool forward Roberto Firmino is fit following a groin injury – although he did not confirm whether the Brazilian would start, suggesting he did not want to let Spurs know his line-up if he did not know theirs.
“If Poch afterwards says the exact line-up then call me and I will tell you our line-up as well, so if not then I thought I’d keep at least a few question marks open,” he said.
“But he’s fit, he trains. If nothing happens from the moment he left the plane to now because I didn’t see him since then, then he should be fine.”
Midfielder Naby Keita is definitely ruled out through injury.
How the teams got to Madrid
The two sides had equally dramatic routes to the final. Liverpool beat Barcelona 4-0 at Anfield to overturn a 3-0 first-leg deficit. And Lucas Moura scored a second-half hat-trick as Spurs came from 3-0 down on aggregate to beat Ajax on away goals.
Both sides had only narrowly come through their groups, with Liverpool losing all three away games.
Tottenham have come within 20 minutes of being eliminated five times – in each of their final three group games, the quarter-final against Manchester City and against Ajax, when they were seconds away from defeat.
In fact, whoever wins Saturday’s final will have lost more Champions League games in a season (four) than anyone since the current format started in 2003-04. The previous high was AC Milan’s three in 2007.
It is the first final between two non-group winners since 2010 and the first not to feature a team who have won their own league in the 21st century.
Managers both in the relaxed mood – view from Spain
Klopp and Pochettino took centre stage at the vast Wanda Metropolitano Stadium as the English takeover spread across the city of Madrid.
It is estimated 70,000 fans will be arriving in the Spanish capital, many without tickets but just wanting to be part of the occasion.
Liverpool and Spurs supporters were circling the stadium early on Friday morning in search of an elusive golden ticket, breaking off from their quest from time to time to seek shade from searing temperatures.
The city centre was decorated in the red of Liverpool and white of Spurs as supporters gathered on Plaza Mayor, the centre of Old Madrid, and the Cibeles Fountain, where Real Madrid have brought the Champions League trophy after multiple recent triumphs.
Klopp and Pochettino were both in remarkably relaxed mood before a game that will capture global attention, both in search of a first trophy at Liverpool and Spurs – and with the biggest one in European club football as the prize.
Liverpool’s manager flashed his trademark grin when his recent dismal record in finals was inevitably a point of discussion, while Pochettino’s media briefing offered up one golden moment when the Spurs manager was asked whether he had lost weight.
Pochettino, who admittedly did look like he had shed a few pounds, reacted with an expression of astonishment before standing up and striking a supermodel’s pose.
Then it was down to business and the sight of the recently injured Firmino and Kane taking part in training in the glorious evening sunshine.
What was clear, behind the smiles and the occasional knockabout moments, was the very obvious and huge respect these two formidable managers have for each other, feelings shared by their players.
Liverpool may be favourites but they will not be fooled by that any more than Spurs will feel their hopes are reduced by the tag of underdogs.
The preliminaries are over. This superb Spanish stage is set for the second all-Premier League Champions League final.