Real Madrid in ‘Champions League mode’ as they aim for 15th title

<span>Saturday’s Wembley showpiece will be Carlo Ancelotti’s 1,324th game as a manager and <a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Real Madrid;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Real Madrid</a>’s sixth Champions League final in 10 years.</span><span>Photograph: Rubén Albarrán/Shutterstock</span>

Carlo Ancelotti has described Real Madrid as being in “Champions League mode” as they begin a week that is there to be enjoyed, at least until Saturday when the cold sweats will start.

The Italian and his team have been here before – the match against Borussia Dortmund at Wembley will be his sixth European Cup final as a coach, Real’s sixth in 10 years, and the 1,324th game Ancelotti has taken charge of in his career – and he says the nerves are normal, his routine ready to see him through. “I like to eat,” Ancelotti said.

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“Can we say the best two teams have reached the final? Yes, the best two teams have reached the final of the Champions League,” the manager added. “We’re still not on holiday but lots of teams are and they will watch the game on the television.

“We have all the excitement and optimism in the world. Calm, confidence, positive. The history of Real Madrid is born in the 1950s with this competition, and it’s something special: this is the competition where you are most concentrated, most focused. We will enjoy it until the day of the final because getting to a final is always a success. We know we have done something good this season; now we have to add the cherry on the cake.

“I’m the same [as always]. The week is happiness, enjoy it, then the worry will come, the fear, but that’s normal and until it does I want to enjoy it. The fear, the cold sweat, comes on Saturday afternoon: that’s every game. I have my routine that I will follow, nothing special. A little bit of superstition because I have been taught that not having it brings bad luck.”

Ancelotti added: “I like to eat,” leaving a comic pause before continuing: “Broccoli. Salmon. And pasta. That’s what I’ll eat. Then I’ll have an hour’s siesta, if I can. I think that’s good. Then there’s all the thoughts about the game. Just before the team talk starts and the heart rate starts to go up: 110 beats per minute, 120. And it stays there until the game starts. And when the game starts, it returns to normal.

“But that’s normal, and my team gives me confidence: they’re focused, in Champions League mode. We have a week to prepare the game and the most important thing is for the players to have a clear idea of what to do. We give them clear information, because that’s the best way to reduce the stress.”

The Italian went on, insistently: “The players’ attitude and commitment has been the key to overcoming the problems we have had. It’s been forgotten but we had [Thibaut] Courtois injured, [Éder] Militão, [David] Alaba. Vinícius [Júnior] was out for two months, [Aurélien] Tchouaméni, [Jude] Bellingham. But despite that, they came through. [Alfredo] Di Stéfano’s phrase [“no player is as good as all the players together”] is the best phrase. And this is the most important game of the season for everyone.”