With Real Madrid CF having had the better of their four meetings with Club Atlético de Madrid this season, Gareth Bale is confident of ending his first Spanish campaign with a UEFA Champions League winners' medal.
Carlo Ancelotti's side recovered from a 1-0 home defeat in the first Derbi Madrileño of 2013/14 to beat Atlético home and away in the Copa del Rey semi-finals before recording a 2-2 Liga away draw in March. "We know how good they have been this season – they're very strong," said the Welsh international. "We're confident having beaten them a few times this season and we're confident we can beat them again on Saturday."
Five goals in 11 UEFA Champions League games, plus 15 in the league and the winner in the Copa del Rey final against FC Barcelona, represent a mighty haul for the 24-year-old signed from Tottenham Hotspur FC last summer. "I'm improving with every game, and obviously coming to the biggest club in the world and playing with players like Cristiano [Ronaldo] is only going to help me improve," Bale explained. "I'm enjoying it here and I'm looking to keep improving."
The chance to appear in his first UEFA Champions League final is a huge thrill, but Bale is certain the occasion will not get to him – or his team. "These are the reasons why you come to Real Madrid, to play in the biggest finals in the world and try to win trophy," he said. "There's pressure in the UEFA Champions League final for any player in any team. We're all looking forward to it and the chance to win it. Hopefully, we'll put a great performance in and lift the trophy."
Bale remembers watching Madrid overcome Bayer 04 Leverkusen to become European champions for a ninth time in 2002. Since then, the club's burning desire has been to take that total into double figures, though the winger maintains that the quest for the 'Décima' is no additional burden to his side. "It's not an obsession," he said. "If you ask any player in world football, it's a dream to win the Champions League. It's a pressure we put on ourselves but hopefully one we can live with."
Doing so would certainly represent a dream ending to Bale's first term at the Santiago Bernabéu – and he hopes that he can once more link up with the Merengues' celebrated No7 to make it happen in Lisbon. "Cristiano is a fantastic player – he's proven season in, season out what a great player he is, so it's an honour and privilege to play with him," Bale gushed. "Hopefully we can all pull together for one last game and win this title."
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