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UEFA Europa League final countdown

Published: Tuesday 8 May 2012, 21.40CET
UEFA.com's team of reporters are in Bucharest and bringing you all the latest ahead of tomorrow's UEFA Europa League final between Club Atlético de Madrid and Athletic Club.

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Published: Tuesday 8 May 2012, 21.40CET

UEFA Europa League final countdown

UEFA.com's team of reporters are in Bucharest and bringing you all the latest ahead of tomorrow's UEFA Europa League final between Club Atlético de Madrid and Athletic Club.

Wednesday brings one of the showpiece games of the season as Club Atlético de Madrid meet Athletic Club in the UEFA Europa League final at the National Arena in Bucharest. UEFA.com's team of reporters are out and about in the Romanian capital, and have the latest on the eve of the match.

All times CET (Bucharest time is +1 hour).

Tuesday 21.40, UEFA.com London newsdesk
Ander Herrera and Andoni Iraola were present at the Athletic press conference, where the former said Los Leones are full of belief having taken the sizeable scalps of Manchester United FC and FC Schalke 04 en route to the final. Read what they had to say here, while the match preview has the views of both coaches. That is it as far as the blog is concerned today. It will return on Wednesday with build-up and news ahead of the showpiece as we count down to kick-off.

Tuesday 20.44, UEFA.com London newsdesk
Want all the facts and stats ahead of tomorrow's final? You could do no worse than read this comprehensive match background.

Tuesday 20.29, UEFA.com London newsdesk
Tomorrow's final is the ninth one in the competition's history contested by two clubs from the same country. What were the others? Find out here.

Tuesday 20.04, UEFA.com London newsdesk
As mentioned below, Falcao was at the Atlético press conference. Read John Atkin's article on him looking forward to tomorrow's final.

Tuesday 19.45, Gonzalo Aguado, National Arena, Bucharest
Bielsa does not expect to be making big changes to his lineup for the final. "In principal, the same players as always will play but you have to take into account the unforeseen circumstances that may arise," he said. "We will look to hold onto the ball and to create more chances than our opponents in attack."

Tuesday 19.28, John Atkin, National Arena, Bucharest
Marcelo Bielsa is up and somewhere, beneath the immovable exterior, there are flickers are excitement – of a sort. "This is a final and all of us who have a part to play, including myself, cannot help but have heightened feelings and sensations," he deadpans, looking, as ever, down at the table.

Tuesday 19.14, John Atkin, National Arena, Bucharest
There is a theme emerging with the journalists' questions, pitting "experienced" Atlético against the youth of Athletic. Andoni Iraola, the latest to field the familiar, reframed inquiry, stresses his Bilbao team-mates "have our own assets". He adds: "We're very confident; we trust our options and we're used to tough games – we've had a few already this season."

Tuesday 19.08, John Atkin, National Arena, Bucharest
Meanwhile, at the Athletic Club press conference Andoni Iraola and Ander Herrera are speaking first, allowing them time to get ready for training. Coach Marcelo Bielsa is not putting his feet up, though; in typical fashion he has his head down, writing and writing. Occasionally he stops, cups his chin in his hand, deep in thought, as if nobody else is here.

Tuesday 18.59, Dúnia Martín, National Arena, Bucharest
Falcao was also alongside Adrián at today's press conference and, in that more professional context, he spoke of the challenge facing Atlético tomorrow night. "This match will be a real final and one that will be disputed from the off," the competition's joint-top scorer said. "Both teams dearly want to win, the coaches know each other as do the teams who obviously compete year in, year out in the same league. Each team will have their advantages and disadvantages but I think that the final will be decoded on small details; concentration will be key."

Tuesday 18.52, UEFA.com London newsdesk
Atlético forward Falcao is known to be quite a big fan of Twitter, and he has had this to say (both tweets have been translated from Spanish):

"We're in Bucharest! The city already feels the final! Plenty of colchoneros accompany us!"

"For the ones who are in Bucharest, do no forget to take the metro and to go to the 'Falcao' station*. Thanks to all of you!"

*see 18.15 below.

Tuesday 18.48, Dúnia Martín, National Arena, Bucharest
While we await news from the Athletic press conference, here is more from Atlético's. "I dont know if this will be 'my' final," said Atlético forward Adrián López when asked whether his fine form in this season's competition merited such words. "I'm hoping that it will be 'Atlético's' final," the Asturian responded. "I'm really happy to be able to play in such a game after only one season here. We've spent so much time working hard this term and we now want to get it right one last time in order to win the trophy, which is our dream."

Tuesday 18.35, UEFA.com London newsdesk
The Athletic press conference starts in ten minutes, with coach Marcelo Bielsa to the fore. The Argentinian has worked wonders at the Basque club this season, but it should not be a surprise considering the experience he has, as our profile on him shows.

Tuesday 18.15, John Atkin, National Arena, Bucharest
The excitement among the Athletic camp is palpable, with the club's website providing a blow by blow account of Monday's journey to Bucharest. That delight will not have diminished on arriving at an airport festooned in UEFA Europa League regalia, nor the constant roadside reminders on the coach ride into town. Fernando Llorente has cause to feel especially welcome, as this week the National Arena will be serviced by the Llorente metro station – hitherto Piata Iancului. The nearby Piaţa Muncii station, meanwhile, has lent its name to Atlético's Falcao.

Tuesday 17.57, John Atkin, National Arena, Bucharest
Atlético coach Diego Simeone speaking at the press conference: "Both teams have fears and nerves – you always do before big games – but once it gets under way you have to show what you're worth. You have to have the right attitude, without thinking 'what if?' It's an important European final – we don't reach them every day."

Tuesday 17.52, Gonzalo Aguado, National Arena, Bucharest
Athletic will be competing in only their second European final after losing out to Juventus in the UEFA Cup final 35 years ago. On that occasion, the Basque side went down on away goals. Athletic will be thus looking to lift their first European silverware and should they manage it, the famous 'Gabarra', or long-boat, will carry the team down the Bilbao river just as it did the successful Liga and Copa double-winning team in 1984.

Tuesday 17.36, Paul Bryan, Spanish newsdesk
Hoping to shake off a pelvic injury in order to feature in the final, Athletic attacker Iker Muniain has promised to get a tattoo of the UEFA Europa League trophy should his side win in Bucharest. "Athletic Club means absolutely everything to me," the 19-year-old said. Asked how it would feel to score the winner against Atlético on Wednesday, the Spanish international replied: "It makes my hair stand on end just thinking about it; I've dreamed about winning this since we reached the final."

Tuesday 17.25, UEFA.com London newsdesk
While we wait to hear what messrs Simeone, Falcao and Adrián have to say, you can see our video interview with two other key players in Atlético's run to the final: Thibaut Courtois and Diego.

Tuesday 17.13, Dúnia Martín, National Arena, Bucharest
The Atlético press conference – featuring Diego Simeone, Falcao and Adrián López – is about to start. The forwards are the only two Colchoneros who have played all 14 of their team's UEFA Europa League games since the beginning of the group stage, starting 12.

Atlético are the tournament's highest scorers going into the final having registered 30 goals. Falcao – the top marksman in last year's UEFA Europa League with FC Porto – needs just one more goal to take the outright lead in the scoring charts from FC Schalke 04's Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, with the pair level on ten strikes. Adrián López, meanwhile, has been a revelation for Atlético, finding the net eight times.

Tuesday 16.54, Dúnia Martín, National Arena, Bucharest
The scene is set here in the Romanian capital for tomorrow night's big game. We will soon hear from Atlético coach Diego Simeone (see 16.02 entry). He took charge of the side last December and has won all eight of his UEFA Europa League games since. It is one of the final's interesting facets that both coaches are Argentinian and that one, Marcelo Bielsa, was once in charge of the other.

The Athletic coach was at the helm of Argentina during the 2002 FIFA World Cup in which 'El Cholo' (Simeone) played the last of his 106 internationals. Whoever wins tomorrow night will be the first Argentinian coach to lift this trophy and should it be Simeone, he will become only the third person to win it as both a player and coach, after Dino Zoff and Hubb Stevens.

Tuesday 16.36, UEFA.com London newsdesk
Obviously the two teams competing to lift the trophy are already very familiar with each other from domestic competition. UEFA.com looked back on five classic meetings between them.

Tuesday 16.29, John Atkin, National Arena, Bucharest
Referee Wolfgang Stark is out on the pitch at the National Arena, familiarising himself with the surroundings and humidity ahead of tomorrow's game. The 42-year-old, a bank employee from Bavaria, is flanked by his assistants, fellow countrymen Jan-Hendrik Salver and Mike Pickel and fourth official Stéphane Lannoy of France.

Tuesday 16.23, John Atkin, National Arena, Bucharest
The game is still over 24 hours away but there is a sense that Bucharest is ready now. The stunning National Arena is just having a last wash and polish and the sun is shining brightly on a lush pitch. With thunderstorms forecast for tomorrow evening, playing tonight sounds an attractive proposition.

Tuesday 16.14, UEFA.com London newsdesk
So, what of the two Spanish rivals for the trophy? UEFA.com has examined both sides' progress to the final: read our profiles of Atlético and Athletic.

Tuesday 16.02, John Atkin, Bucharest
Welcome to Romania's capital on the eve of the UEFA Europa League final. Both clubs have arrived and we will hear from them soon: Atlético's press conference begins at 17.15CET, and will feature Adrián López, Falcao and coach Diego Simeone. Athletic's kicks off an apt 90 minutes later, at 18.45CET, when Andoni Iraola and Ander Herrera address the gathered (and gathering ever more) media.

Tuesday 16.00, UEFA.com London newsdesk
They have played 33 matches between them to get here but it all boils down to one now for Atlético and Athletic: the UEFA Europa League final. Atlético are chasing their second success in three seasons while Athletic are in a European final for the first time since 1977.

Last updated: 27/11/12 17.19CET

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