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May 23, 2014

Costa, Ronaldo step up UCL final fitness

Adrian Healey and Stewart Robson debate whether or not Atlético Madrid can stop Cristiano Ronaldo in the Champions League final.

Key attackers Diego Costa and Cristiano Ronaldo have stepped up their respective recoveries ahead of Saturday's Champions League final between Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid in Lisbon.

- 50-50 challenge awaits Madrid rivals
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Costa remains a major doubt for the game having been diagnosed with a grade 1 hamstring tear last Monday, but having undergone a "miracle" horse-placenta treatment in Belgrade this week, the Atletico top scorer surprisingly took some part in team training on his return to Madrid on Thursday.

Meanwhile Ronaldo -- who has not played since substituting himself with a thigh muscle problem just eight minutes into Madrid's 1-1 draw at Valladolid on May 7 -- also returned to group training for the first time this week at his club's session on Thursday at Valdebebas, although AS reports that he only took part in a limited role for precautionary reasons.

Atletico's club statement was short on details but said that Costa and Arda Turan -- who is a doubt with a pelvic problem -- had trained and were travelling to Lisbon for the decider.

"At its camp in Los Angeles de San Rafael, the team had its last training session on Spanish soil before beginning the journey to Lisbon for the Champions League final," the statement read.

"In this training session on Segovian soil, Diego Pablo Simeone could count on all the squad to continue preparing for the game which closes a season with the second Champions League final in our history. The Argentine coach had available all 22 players who make up the first team squad, and all will travel to the Portuguese capital."

While Ronaldo is expected to start no matter what, Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti also has doubts about centre-half Pepe -- who suffered a calf problem in the game against Valladolid -- and centre-forward Karim Benzema, who limped out of last weekend's 3-1 final La Liga day win over Espanyol with an abductor issue.

Pepe has been all but discarded for the final against Atletico and is expected to be replaced by France international Raphael Varane.

Benzema is to have a late fitness test in Friday evening's final training session at Lisbon's Estadio Da Luz. Should the former Lyon striker not be declared fit, then Isco will come into the starting XI.

A Blancos club statement released Thursday evening also gave little away, just stating that the entire first team squad had been called up for the final club game of the season.

"Madrid's travelling party, headed by 23 players and club president Florentino Perez, has arrived in Lisbon," the statement read. "The Whites landed in Portela after a flight of just under one hour. The team then made the trip to Hotel Tivoli, where they will be staying until their Champions League final on Saturday against Atletico."

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