Liverpool will be looking to clinch their sixth Champions League title as they take on the first-time finalist Tottenham Hotspur in an all-English final – a first at the top tier European club competition since 2008 – in the Spanish capital.
Both sides will be backed by 17,000 supporters each, according to UEFA, when the match gets under way at 9pm local time (19:00GMT) on Saturday in Madrid’s Wanda Metropolitano stadium, while thousands more are expected to fill the 68,000 capacity venue.
Five-time champions Liverpool overcame a 3-0 first-leg deficit to defeat Spanish giant Barcelona 4-3 on aggregate in the semifinals and reach the championship match for the second consecutive year.
“This year we learned a lot,” Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp said at a press conference on Friday. “We are a completely different side to last year, so the final was not too important for our improvement; the final was like a starting point again for the next steps. That’s how we saw it, that’s how we wanted to use it, and that’s what we did.
Meanwhile, the Spurs’ route to its maiden final also saw a dramatic comeback win over Dutch side Ajax 3-3 on away goals.
“The moment you get to the final, it’s about winning the final,” Tottenham coach Mauricio Pochettino said. “We trust in ourselves.”
Madrid is hosting its fifth elite final with the previous four in the city held at Real Madrid’s Santiago Bernabeu Stadium.
On the eve of the match, Spanish police said they detained four British citizens for alleged assault, including against officers.
Spanish authorities deployed unprecedented security measures after reports of major problems in the capital, with more than 4,700 security personnel from several security areas involved in the operation.
Salah seeks glory
On the field, Liverpool will be boosted by the return of their ace forward Mohammed Salah, who missed the second leg of the semifinals because of a concussion.
The Egyptian forward had to leave last year’s final against Real Madrid in the first half because of a shoulder injury.
“I am so happy that I have the chance to play another final,” he told the Guardian newspaper. “I hope I can play the full game this time,” he said.
“I hope we can right what happened last season, get a good result and win the competition,” Salah added.
When asked if he dreamed of scoring the winning goal on Saturday, he replied: “Not just dream. I hope it becomes a reality and I score in the final, then win the African Cup of Nations [which kicks off in Egypt this month] too.”
Klopp said Brazilian forward Roberto Firmino has regained his fitness and will be available but didn’t say whether he will start.
The two English sides will renew their rivalry that dates back to the 1900s, with Liverpool leading their head-to-head with 82 wins against 48 losses.
The Reds have lost only once in their last 14 matches against the Spurs.
Their only European meeting to date was in 1973 in the semifinals of what is now called the UEFA Europa League.
The last all-English Champions League final took place in 2008 when Manchester United beat Chelsea on penalties in Moscow.
It has been a landmark year for English football in European competitions with all four finalists at the Champions League and the second tier Europa League featuring Premier League sides.
Al Jazeera’s sports correspondent Lee Wellings said it has been a “memorable competition culminating in this final between two English rivals”.
In a European club competition historically dominated by Spanish clubs, Wellings said, “English club football has eclipsed the Spanish giants in Europe this season, spectacularly, and that will hurt Barcelona and Real Madrid hugely.”
“The Champions League final will be historic, fascinating, and has been eagerly anticipated,” he added. “Five times champions of Europe against a club trying to lift this cup for the first time ever.”