'It's our destiny' -- Fans paint Liverpool red
Liverpool fans were dreaming of Champions League glory as they turned their city into a sea of red ahead of the hotly-anticipated showdown with Real Madrid in Kiev on Saturday.
After a week dominated by the frustration of Liverpool supporters who were unable to travel to the Ukraine for the final of Europe's elite club competition, the big day arrived with anticipation at fever pitch among those who stayed on Merseyside.
Two travel companies axed flights, leaving diehard fans scrambling to find a way to travel to Kiev.
For those who couldn't make it, the party was already underway in pubs and bars in the city centre.
Shops and streets were decked out in red banners, scarves and posters, reflecting Liverpool fans' belief that by full-time in Kiev they will be celebrating the club's sixth European Cup and first since 2005.
"There's this momentum around the city," said Danny Byrne, 43, doing a roaring trade in flags and scarves outside the club's Anfield stadium where fans were gathering to watch on a giant screen.
"There's this real belief that we're going to do it and it's our destiny. All the stars are aligned."
The showdown in the Ukrainian capital -- 1,400 miles (2,300 kilometres) east of Liverpool -- follows a momentous season which has seen the Reds plunder 46 goals in 14 games, making it back to the Champions League final for the first time in 11 years.
But to lift the famous trophy, they must stop holders Real winning the competition for a third successive year in a confrontation some fans see as a David and Goliath climax to an historic season.
"Underestimate the underdog and you get bitten," warned 56-year-old fan Arthur Tutte, showing off his Liverpool FC tattoo outside Anfield.
In the morning, packed trains arrived at Lime Street station, spilling chanting fans who have made the pilgrimage to Liverpool onto platforms.
- 'Hell of a big game' -
The centre of the city -- already busy during the British bank holiday weekend -- was a sea of red football strips, with Liverpool's Egypt striker Mohamed Salah a clear favourite as his number 11 shirt was proudly worn by many fans.
Salah has scored 44 goals in all competitions to lead Liverpool back to the Champions League final thanks to memorable wins over Manchester City and Roma in the quarter-finals and semi-finals respectively.
Aboard a train from London filled with fans was James Beaney, 42, carrying a mask of Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp, but suffering from match day nerves.
"It's a hell of a big game against another European giant," he told AFP.
"You've got to give Real Madrid respect but I think we've got nothing to be afraid of," he reasoned.
Anfield was a hive of activity, echoing with the club's "You'll Never Walk Alone" anthem hours before the 1845 GMT kick off.
Cars with flags lapped the stadium honking horns to cheers, with one female fan hanging out of the window, chanting "Allez, Allez, Allez" -- the title of the season's favourite fan chant that goes: "We've conquered all of Europe/ We're never going to stop."
Outside nearby pub The Sandon, maintenance man Alan Gedman climbed a ladder to untangle an "Allez, Allez, Allez" flag with great care as workers rolled kegs into the bar in preparation for the day's trade.
Later on a huge screen on a double decker bus parked outside will show the match to hundreds of fans.
"I've been here since six o'clock this morning!" Gedman said.