There’s queues of people lining to enter mysterious tents in the Puerta del Sol, there’s a giant inflatable silver trophy dominating the Plaza Oriente and the Plaza Mayor has been converted into a football pitch.
Anyone fancy a game?
Footy in Plaza Mayor, Madrid. pic.twitter.com/kYKQIoXXEy
— James Mountford (@jamesmountford0) May 30, 2019
Packs of sunburnt Englishmen are taking over the terrace bars, Red banners with pithy slogans are appearing on railings and there’s a never ending chorus of You’ll Never Walk Alone coming from the tents in the corner.
The fans are piling into Madrid ahead of the Champions League Final on Saturday when Liverpool FC will take on Tottenham Hotspur at the Madrid’s Wanda Stadium.
The lucky ones came by plane direct to Madrid. Others had to be more creative in their bookings and fly into Barcelona, Malaga, Alicante and take the train or bus from there.
Some are still making their way in coaches, mobile homes and cars, catching cross-channel ferries and clocking up the miles motoring through down through France.
A stage has been set up in Puerta del Sol. Photo: Paul Thacker / The Local.
And it’s not just those fortunate ones who secured one of the 16,000 tickets allocated to fans of each team that are descending on Madrid, tens of thousands more have come just to soak up the atmosphere as their teams battle it out to be crowned Champions League winners 2019.
Reports estimate that around 70,000 fans will flood the city over the weekend, sending hotel and Airbnb prices soaring.
Dedicated fan zones have been set up in the city, Plaza Colon for Spurs supporters and Plaza Felipe II for Liverpool fans. They are designed to be a meeting point for fans but they close at 6pm on Match day when everyone will be kicked out.
But the big question is where will those fans who haven’t got tickets, watch the game.
Hannah and Dominic pose in Plaza Oriente. Photo: Fiona Govan / The Local Spain
Dominic Barker, 26 and Hannah Bishop, 27, from Scarborough are spending a week in Madrid around the match, for which they don’t have tickets.
The pair were posing for selfies in front of a giant inflatable Champions League trophy installed in the Plaza Oriente in front of the Royal Palace.
“It’s just great to be here, the atmosphere is great,” said Hannah from beneath a Jürgen Klopp mask.
“I don’t know where we’ll watch it… aren’t there big screens?” a rather pinkish Dominic, who had a Mo Salah mask on his head asked.
“I’ve heard there’s an Irish pub near the park that’ll have it on, we’ll try and squeeze in there.”
In Plaza Mayor the party had well and truly started on Thursday evening as Liverpool fans congregated in one bar with outside tables and took over a corner of the historic square.
By 10pm the party was thumping, with shirtless men standing on tables and thumping the air with their fists as they belted out another Liverpool chant.
“We’ve come all the way from Dubai,” said Dan, 30, an oil and gas worker. “We got match tickets in the draw, flew to Barcelona and then came in on the train. You couldn’t keep me away from this,” he beamed.
Standing alongside a banner emblazoned with “Dubai Reds Tax Dodgers on Tour” the group of three (pictured above) admitted to paying “silly money” for a bed in Madrid.
“We are in a very basic twin room in a hostel but it’s just near Sol. And it cost €1,400 for four nights!! At least the beer is cheap.”
The rowdy gathering had becoming something of curiosity as Spaniards looked on and pulled out their phones to snap the fans.
“This is just good fun, we are just here for a good time,” explained Dave, a man his 50s wearing a Liverpool shirt. “ We are not hooligans. There won’t be any trouble.”
— Fiona Govan (@fifimadrid) May 30, 2019
Madrid has deployed an unprecedented number of police and security personnel for Saturday's game, with around 4,700 police officers and private security guards on duty.
For the first time, a drone will be used to monitor fan activity.
And Spain’s police force will be working in tandem with London Metropolitan Police officers who have flown in to help with the security operation.
“Fans who choose to get involved in disorder should be warned that they can expect to be arrested and dealt with robustly by the Spanish police,” said the head of the London Metropolitan Police operation at the final, superintendent Nick Collins.
Madrid City Hall and the police confirmed on Friday that they would not be broadcasting the game live on big screens in any public places.
— policia_UCLF_TFC (@policia_UCLFTFC) May 29, 2019
Fans have set up Facebook groups and whatsapp group chats to coordinate rendezvous, and some enterprising souls have hired entire restaurants and clubs in order to ensure a spot to watch the game.
And there are those ever hopeful fans who still think they might be able to score a ticket for the match.
“I've heard they can be had for three-and-a-half thousand, but I won't pay silly money,” said one older man with his teenage son.
“But if we can't get tickets, no matter. We'll just enjoy the atmosphere.”