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Happy Wednesday! While the countdown continues ahead of Saturday's UEFA Champions League final, another trophy will be handed out in Europe on Wednesday, when Olympiacos take on Fiorentina in the UEFA Europa Conference League final. I'm Pardeep Cattry with a silverware-themed midweek check-in.

📺 Footy fix

All times U.S./Eastern

Wednesday, May 29
🇪🇺 UECL: Olympiacos vs. Fiorentina, 3 p.m. ➡️ Paramount+
🇺🇸 MLS: Austin vs. Portland Timbers, 8:30 p.m. ➡️ FS1, Apple TV+

⚽ The Forward Line

🇪🇺 Is this Real Madrid's Champions League to lose?

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Few things are as commonplace in elite European soccer as Real Madrid competing in a Champions League final -- the Spanish champions will compete for the trophy for an 18th time on Saturday, when they have the chance to win their 15th title. Five of those victories have come in the last 10 years, affording Carlo Ancelotti's a sense of familiarity and calm despite going to Wembley Stadium as the heavy favorites. As midfielder Aurelien Tchouamni describes it, the team is keeping their final preparations fairly simple ahead of the clash with Borussia Dortmund.

  • Tchouameni: "We're just preparing for this game. I feel like everybody's ready to be able to compete. … I feel like everybody should keep the same routine. For sure, it's the most important game of the season but at the end of the day, we remain focused and ready so that's the most important thing. We don't really have to change a lot of things because that's the most important [thing] to be ready on Saturday."

Real Madrid's historic confidence has not dimmed in recent months, considering they made it to the final after a season of dominance in Spain and Europe. That includes winning their first La Liga title since 2022, losing just one game in the domestic league and finishing 10 points above second place Barcelona. The team also enters the Champions League final after an undefeated campaign in Europe, most impressively ousting Manchester City on penalties in the quarterfinals after a 4-4 aggregate score. Ancelotti has been able to rely on experienced players like midfielder Toni Kroos, who has four Champions League titles with Madrid and will retire this summer, but their ability to stay on top has been driven by a constant squad refresh.

The buzziest player on the squad might actually be newcomer Jude Bellingham, who kicked off his time in the Spanish capital with four Champions League goals during the group stage but evolved into a more behind-the-scenes role as the season continued. His form has not dipped, though, and he is quickly acquiring a sense of assuredness despite playing for the Champions League trophy for the first time on Saturday.

  • Bellingham: "I think the first half [of the season], I was obviously scoring a lot of goals and that was fun. Second half, maybe still quite a few but not as many, but I actually think the performances have probably improved. I think all around, I've got more comfortable in the team, have even more freedom to roam around the pitch. I know, more than anyone, my own game and I don't always need to score to have an impact."

Real Madrid's confidence is usually a trademark of theirs every season, but has especially been so this year. They have frequently looked tactically unbalanced, especially in Europe -- despite ranking in the Champions League's top four in several attacking categories including goals per game (2.11) and expected goals per game (1.97), they rank 19th for shot on goal percentage at 33.8%. They have also been slightly porous in defense, conceding an average of 1.22 goals per game en route to the final. Despite their imperfections, though, Real Madrid are back where they expect to be through some combination of tangible quality, which they have in spades thanks to the squad they have assembled, and intangible strengths. They seem to outrank most European teams in both categories, but Real Madrid's season of good vibes has one more test to pass. Whether or not they can do it is the ultimate question.

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🏆 Olympiacos, Fiorentina duke it out in the Conference League

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Before the eyes of the soccer world turn to London on Saturday, Olympiacos and Fiorentina will play for the Conference League trophy on Wednesday in the Athens suburb of Nea Filadelfeia. The Italian side come in as the heavy favorites, continuing a recent habit of deep cup runs -- they made it to last season's Coppa Italia final and Conference League final. They lost on both occasions to Inter and West Ham United, respectively, which means there's an added pressure to overcome the hump of last year's disappointment, according to Charlie Davies.

  • Davies: "Sometimes in finals, the pressure to maybe not be as aggressive, to keep it close, to wait for those perfect moments. If they don't come or if you miss that one opportunity, it's a wrap because it's so easy to get caught up in the [feeling of], 'Last game, it's a final. We can't take those risks, we got to be calculated,' and instead of just playing aggressive, playing like it's any other game -- even though it's not -- that typically is what allows you to get more chances in a final."

A victory for Fiorentina will likely require a big performance from Lucas Beltran, who has four goals in the Conference League this season, while their 4-3 aggregate win over Club Brugge in the semifinals will inspire some confidence. This is also expected to be the last match in charge for Vincenzo Italiano, who dodged questions about his future ahead of the match but aims to leave Fiorentina on a high, per Francesco Porzio.

  • Porzio: "I think Fiorentina have a chance, also, because they will have some extra motivation. Italiano is one of them. Italiano wants to leave the club with a trophy, but they also want to remember Joe Barone, the former vice president of the club who sadly passed away a few weeks ago. I think Fiorentina, the whole team, want to give to Barone, to his memory, a trophy because he really deserved it and really wanted to win a cup with the club."

There's no reason to sleep on this Olympiacos team, though, who can boast their own accomplishments heading into the final. They are the first Greek team to make the final of a European club competition and are now led by Jose Luis Mendilibar, whose pedigree includes winning the Europa League last season with Sevilla. Golden boot leader Ayoub El Kaabi has also been a standout with 10 goals this campaign, half of them coming in Olympiacos' 6-2 aggregate defeat of Aston Villa in the semifinals. They will also have the benefit of creating as much of a home field advantage as possible -- the final at OPAP Arena is being played roughly 10 miles from Olympiacos' home venue, Karaiskakis Stadium.

🔗  Top Stories

🗣️ UCL chatter: Hear from Real Madrid's Jude Bellingham and Antonio Rudiger and Borussia Dortmund's Mats Hummels and Gregor Kobel ahead of Saturday's Champions League final.

🏆 Road to Wembley: Here's a ranking of Real Madrid's 14 Champions League titles so far, and a look at Gregor Kobel's importance for Dortmund.

You're hired: Barcelona named Hansi Flick as the new manager, while Vincent Kompany has officially stepped in to take charge at Bayern Munich and Enzo Maresca inches closer to becoming the new Chelsea boss.

🇺🇸 NWSL latest: The progress report is strong on the Orlando Pride's rebuild and less-than-ideal for the Utah Royals, and the broadcast schedule dropped the NWSL x Liga MX Femenil Summer Cup, with live coverage across CBS Sports' platforms.

🌴 Cremaschi on Messi: American midfielder Ben Cremaschi talks about the impact LIonel Messi has had on him at Inter Miami, saying Messi's presence keeps him focused.

💰  The Back Line

💵 Best bets

  • UEFA Europa Conference League final: Olympiacos vs. Fiorentina, Wednesday, 3 p.m.
    💰 THE PICK: Fiorentina to win 1-0 (+700)
    -- Both teams have averaged more than two goals a game in the Conference League this season and have let in more than one goal per game, so predicting a conservative scoreline might be risky here. This pick relies on the intangibles to play a big part on Wednesday, chiefly Fiorentina's tricky record in finals and Olympiacos' home field feeling. The odds are in Fiorentina's favor, though, so expect them to leave Greece with their first European trophy since 1961.

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