LONDON - Fulham and Atletico Madrid, two proud clubs living in the shadow of more illustrious city rivals, take centre stage tomorrow in Hamburg when they meet in the Europa League final.
Two years after saving their Premier League skins on the final day of the season, homely Fulham are hoping to complete a remarkable journey under much-travelled manager Roy Hodgson by beating the nine-time Spanish champions.
Midfielder Simon Davies described Fulham's sensible, well-organised style as "not very exciting" at the club's training ground last week but their path to the showpiece in the German port city has been pure fantasy.
After starting in the qualifying competition against Lithuanian side FK Vetra on July 30 , Fulham made it out of a tough first-round group containing AS Roma, CSKA Sofia and Basel, and then began toppling some of Europe's big guns in the knockout rounds.
First, holders Shakhtar Donetsk were felled, then Juventus and they followed that by beating German champions Wolfsburg before breaking SV Hamburg's hearts in the semis.
Midfielder Danny Murphy said: "It's been film-like. I was suspended for the Juventus game and when they scored I felt like going home. But after that fightback. we thought, we've beaten Juve, we can beat anybody."
Unlike Fulham, Atletico have a rich European pedigree but have not appeared in a continental final since the Cup Winners' Cup in 1986. In Diego Forlan, Antonio Reyes and Sergio Aguero, they have a formidable strike force and will start as favourites. - Reuters