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May 23, 2014

Ancelotti: Season has led up to final

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

Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti says his whole season's work has been about getting the team into position to win the much longed-for 'Decima' trophy in Saturday's Champions League final against neighbours Atletico Madrid in Lisbon.

Madrid's fans, players and president Florentino Perez have gone 12 years waiting to be champions of Europe for the 10th time, with over 1 billion euros spent on signings, and ten other coaches coming and going without the team making it back to another decider.

Ancelotti's side qualified for the final in style by hammering Bayern Munich 4-0 away in their semifinal second leg, but then subsequently took just two points from three games to see Atletico lift the Liga trophy despite a late stumble themselves.

The coach of Los Blancos said in his pre-game news conference on Friday at Lisbon's Estadio Da Luz that from his very first day at the club he had been focused on getting his team to this position -- and now it was time to go out and finish the job.

"We began the season thinking in this objective, to reach this final, to win La Decima," Ancelotti said. "We have achieved that. For all madridistas, tomorrow is a special day. Everyone knows the importance of this competition for Real Madrid, and my job is to do the best. I said that on first day I came here, I would do the best I could to win this competition, and we are very close."

Ancelotti said that Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale were sure to start Saturday's game, but he would wait until the final training session concluded to determine whether other fitness doubts -- centre-half Pepe and centre-forward Karim Benzema -- would be able to make it.

"Today's training is important to evaluate the situation," he said. "Cristiano and Bale have no problems. We have to evaluate Pepe and Benzema, who have not trained this week. Today they will begin the session with others, then we will take the decision for tomorrow."

The AC Milan legend -- who won the trophy twice as a player and twice as a manager with the Italian club -- said experience taught him that players were more relaxed about such huge games if they had clear tactical instructions to follow.

"In this moment, the most important is to be relaxed," he said. "We will try and train well today and give them clear instructions for the game. This is a good way to avoid the pressure of the game. They can think about how to play it the best."

Ancelotti was also asked about his own future -- including speculation that Perez could fire him after just one season should he follow losing out on La Liga's title to Atletico by missing out on La Decima to their neighbours.

"My future is tomorrow's game," he said. "I am used to this talk. A coach must be judged by those competent to judge his work. There is no problem, after tomorrow's game we will put a mark on the season."

The 54-year-old -- who suffered Champions League final anguish when his Milan team blew a 3-0 lead to lose on penalties to Liverpool in 2005 -- said the only thing which concerned him at his stage were the things he could not foresee happening.

"You worry most about what you cannot predict," Ancelotti said. "Anything can happen in a final. Things you cannot do anything about."

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