Howard Webb and his refereeing team are in perfect shape and looking forward to the highlight of their careers when FC Bayern München tackle FC Internazionale Milano on Saturday.
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Howard Webb told UEFA.com after an eve-of-final training session at the Santiago Bernabéu that he and his refereeing team are in perfect shape and looking forward to the highlight of their careers when FC Bayern München tackle FC Internazionale Milano in the UEFA Champions League showpiece on Saturday.
The 38-year-old – who will be assisted by fellow Englishmen Michael Mullarkey and Darren Cann, with Martin Atkinson acting as fourth official – has been in the middle for games involving both teams this season, and would like nothing better than to "disappear into the background and assist in a positive game of football" with the eyes of the world on Madrid.
UEFA.com: How are you feeling 24 hours before the match?
Howard Webb: We're feeling fantastic; mentally and physically we're prepared for the game. Obviously we're delighted to have been appointed to it. It's a massive honour, the pinnacle I suppose of a referee's club career. Coming here today, looking around this magnificent stadium and getting a feel for the playing surface really has set us up well for the game.
UEFA.com: How will the final rank among your career highlights?
Webb: I think it's got to be the highlight. We've done some huge games both at home and abroad but to come here for this wonderful, wonderful football occasion ... I guess for the players it will be one of their biggest highlights and certainly for me it will as well.
UEFA.com: You are the fifth English referee and the first since Philip Don in 1994 to referee such a final. There's obviously a real sense of pride but do you also feel that you're representing England?
Webb: I guess that every referee who comes here from any country feels that they are representing their countrymen, the referees back home. We've got something like 30,000 referees back in England and I'm sure they'll be wishing us the very best for a smooth game. It's a real honour and a privilege to come out here and represent those wonderful guys who've been really supportive on my journey. I've been refereeing for over 21 years and you need a lot of support to get to these levels.
UEFA.com: How will you and the team prepare between now and the final?
Webb: We'll do some resting; we've prepared physically for the game. We'll be coming back to the stadium tomorrow for an organisational meeting when we'll run through some protocols and procedures; we'll check the playing colours, for example, and the pitch again. I'm sure it will be fine but we'll go through the procedure as we would for any other Champions League game.
UEFA.com: Have you watched any videos of the teams since you were appointed?
Webb: I'm familiar with both teams. We see a lot of football on TV and I've also refereed both of these teams in the Champions League this season so I'm familiar with the personnel who are going to be playing. Of course we do a bit of research about who's involved, their progress through the tournament, it's the only professional thing to do. We'll go into the game with an open mind hoping for a really sporting and entertaining game and hoping that people will be speaking about the fantastic football on show and not about the referees.
UEFA.com: Players often talk about the hairs standing up on the back of their necks when the UEFA Champions League anthem plays. What will you be thinking as you line up before kick-off?
Webb: Pretty much the same. I'm sure we'll have butterflies in our stomachs but we'll be keen to put in a good performance and assist in a really clean game I hope. The adrenalin will be flowing but we'll all perform better because of that.
UEFA.com: How important is a good early decision in a match like this?
Webb: I think we'll want to get off to a good start – I'm sure the players will be the same. It would be a nice settling influence but let's see what happens, go in there with an open mind but be prepared to deal with anything. We'll be strong if we need to be but hopefully, if the players want to play, we'll disappear into the background and assist in a positive game of football.