Monaco prepare for Champions League final

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src=' ' class='caption'> Monaco go in search of their first European title when they play Porto in the final of the Champions League in Gelsenkirchen, Germany on Wednesday.

Updated: February 25, 2007 10:06 IST
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Monaco go in search of their first European title when they play Porto in the final of the Champions League in Gelsenkirchen, Germany on Wednesday. The French club have only appeared in one European final, prior to this season - a 2-0 defeat to Werder Bremen in the 1992 Cup Winners' Cup final. Victory in Germany would cap a remarkable season for coach Didier Deschamps' side. The Aufschalke Arena in Gelsenkirchen will host the Champions League final between French club Monaco and Portugal's FC Porto. The two unlikely finalists have come through, after a Champions League campaign that saw big guns such as Real Madrid, AC Milan, Arsenal and Manchester United eliminated with the final in sight. Didier Deschamps' Monaco team knocked out Real, before taking care of Chelsea in the semi-final. Goal scorer On both occasions, striker Fernando Morientes, who is on loan from Real, was an important source of goals. The final against Porto will provide Morientes with an opportunity to crown a remarkable season by becoming the first player to win the Champions League four times, since the competition was introduced in the 1992-93 season. He has scored nine times in this season's competition, and on Wednesday, Monaco will once again look to the Spaniard to help see off Porto, who, Deschamps believes are favourites to win the title. 'Porto favourites' "I think that even if Porto does not have the prestige of Real Madrid or of AC Milan, they still remain the favourites in this final. The past experience they have accumulated, last year's success in winning the UEFA Cup, still means they are a great European club, a great club, and on the pitch they are also a great team. So, I don't think that Monaco are the favourites in this final," said Didier Deschamps, Monaco coach. Monaco finished third in France's Ligue 1 last week, and they know that Champions League success would go some way to making the season one to remember. The French club don't want to stumble at the final hurdle. Captain Ludovic Giuly re-emphasised the unlikely make-up of Wednesday's Champions League final. With some of the world's biggest clubs taking part in the European competition, few would have bet on a final featuring Monaco and Porto "At the start of the season I would have said it was impossible for us to be in the final. Our aim was just to get through the group phase. So, everything that has happened has been magic. But, Porto are not here by accident and we know that, for us, playing such a good team in the final represents a big challenge," said Ludovic Giuly, Monaco captain. Victory in Wednesday's final would see coach Didier Deschamps become the second successive coach to win the European Cup as a coach and as a player after AC Milan's Carlo Ancelotti last season. At 35, Deschamps would also become the youngest coach to win the title. Positive approach The World Cup and European Championship winner has plenty of experience when it comes to important finals, and he's convinced that his players are fully prepared for what lies ahead. "It is without doubt a very special occasion. But I don't think my players are any less prepared than Porto's. They have arrived with the maximum chance of winning. There's nothing between the sides, we must pay attention to the minutest details, to line up in a formation that will be victorious, to be in a positive frame of mind, to think positively, to think one is going to win, not to consider defeat," said Didier Deschamps, Monaco coach. Following Monaco's third place finish in the French League, in the back of their minds will be the thought that they will have to qualify for next season's Champions League, should they lose in Gelsenkirchen on Wednesday. Deschamps, though, will expect nothing less than victory. (AP)

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