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May 15, 2014

Madrid 'relishing La Decima pressure'

The ESPN FC guys give their thoughts on the Champions League final between Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid.

Cristiano Ronaldo said the pressure Real Madrid feel to win "La Decima" is positive as he gears up for the Champions League final against Atletico Madrid in Lisbon on May 24.

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Madrid's club history and self-image are closely connected with their European Cup exploits over the decades, and Blancos fans, club directors and the local media have waited 12 years to return to a final, with each year's elimination having brought more pain and recriminations around the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu.

The emphatic nature of their semifinal elimination of previous tournament favourites Bayern Munich, in addition to their having exited the domestic title race, has also added to the feeling that Carlo Ancelotti's side must now defeat their city neighbours to end their long wait.

Ronaldo, who has had little playing time recently to avoid risking further damage to a hamstring problem ahead of the final, told UEFA that such expectations drove him and his teammates forward.

"It is a trophy we have spent years trying to win," Ronaldo said in quotes reported on the club's official website. "As a result, from the very first day we arrive at the club we feel a positive kind of pressure geared towards winning the Champions League.

"This year it feels like we are just one small step away from doing it. Pressure is a part of football and of playing for Real Madrid. We are used to having to win all the time, but it is fine. I like the pressure because it makes me a better player. It is a special kind of adrenalin we feel."

Ronaldo said he was "very happy" with being a part of the club's illustrious history, and wanted to add another chapter to both his and the club's European story.

He said: "I'm going to try and win as much as possible with this team and I've always dreamed of winning the Champions League with Real Madrid. It is going to be a very special match, and in my own country too. I'm very happy and excited."

Ronaldo said Atletico would nevertheless provide a stiff test in the decider.

"We know it's going to be a very tricky match because Atletico are having a great year. They're a very good team with a great coach," he said. "But we're going to try and win and play our best. The team is doing well and feeling confident.

"We have to play the same way we have in previous games. We've been successful doing that and have beaten huge teams. This will be a difficult challenge. Atletico Madrid is a very compact side and is very strong mentally. It is always difficult to predict who the winner will be in a final. It is a very different kind of match and I think it will be decided on the smallest of details."

Ronaldo, Madrid's top scorer, has already broken the single season record for European goals -- with 16 so far -- and said he planned to add to that tally in the final game.

"I think in terms of teamwork Real Madrid has shown itself to be an excellent side and one that deserves to win the trophy," he said. "On a personal level, it has gone well for me. I am the top goalscorer in the competition and I'm very happy about that. That wasn't my aim at the start of the Champions League season, but things have gone well for me. My teammates have helped me a lot, and I'll be trying to score again in the final."

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