Thousands of Manchester City and Chelsea fans have been partying in Portugal ahead of tonight’s ‘Battle of Britain’ Champions League final.
City supporters were particularly excited because it will be their team’s first ever appearance in the world’s biggest club game.
Fans of both sides congregated in riverside bars tonight, delighted to be in a foreign country drinking beer and enjoying the “normality”.
Berny Lawton, 51, from Didsbury, Manchester, watched City scrape past Gillingham on penalties in the 1999 Second Division play-off final.
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Now he is about to watch his club in the Champions League final.
The engineer said: “The logistics of getting here with tickets and tests have been very difficult so we are just so pleased to be here.”
His friend Martin Morris, 52, from Stockport, also an engineer, said: “It’s cost us over £250 each for Covid testing.
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“But it will be worth every penny if we win our first Champions League final.”
City fan Phil Coombs has been watching the team since 1969 and was one of just 3,007 fans at their 2-1 Auto Windscreens Shield defeat at home to Mansfield in 1998.
Phil, 59, a lecturer in Mental Health Nursing at the University of Chester, said: “I’d never have thought we’d get to a Champions League final. That’s football for you.”
Salvi Folch is a City fan while his son Jose Pablo Folch is a Chelsea fan.
Both were determined to enjoy tonight’s match whatever the result.
Salvi, 54, said: “It’s just so great to be at a match again.”
While there were a couple of minor skirmishes, Portuguese police said the mood was happy and no major trouble had been reported.
Many fans came without tickets, hoping to secure one on the day.
Chelsea supporter Chris Radwell, from Feltham, West London, admitted: “I don’t have a ticket. I’ve been following Chelsea all over Europe since 1994.
“I can’t tell you how angry I am at how the club handled the ticket allocation. It’s a joke.”