Liverpool have their sights set on a first Club World Cup title in Qatar, but may need to overcome a club that has denied them intercontinental glory in the past to add the trophy to their cabinet.
The Reds head to the Middle East as clear favourites to take home the trophy, and have given the competition precedence as they have named a strong squad despite a fixture pile-up that has come as a result of their participation in the tournament.
Jurgen Klopp’s men will aim to clinch UEFA Champions League progression on Tuesday before facing Aston Villa in the EFL Cup a week later, with those fixtures sandwiched by the visit of Watford in the Premier League.
It is the trip to Villa Park that is set to see Liverpool rotate their squad and go with a young team for that quarter-final.
A star-studded forward line that has tormented the Premier League and opponents across Europe is therefore poised to face opposition they should be able to wreak even greater havoc against.
Fourteen years on from their 1-0 defeat to Sao Paulo in the final, Liverpool have another crack at Club World Cup glory. Their relentless domestic form suggests there will be no such let down this time around.
VAN DIJK RELISHING DIFFERENT CHALLENGE
Though it adds another two games to their workload at a time of the season when the fixture list is already packed, Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk is relishing the chance to make history for the Premier League leaders on the world stage.
“This squad can be the first Liverpool side to win the Club World Cup,” Van Dijk told FIFA.com. “It’ll be a great experience. We’re all looking forward to going out there and hopefully get that trophy as well.
“We’re at the stage right now where we have the experience of playing international football [with national teams]. We have players who’ve played all over the world anyway.
“It’s going to be a totally different challenge for us but it’s something that we’re definitely looking forward to.”
Having missed out on winning the Ballon d’Or and being recognised as the world’s best footballer, centre-back Van Dijk will look to play an instrumental role in ensuring Liverpool finish the year as the planet’s premier club side.
FLAMENGO OUT TO SPOIL THE PARTY
Liverpool’s only appearance in the Club World Cup final saw them lose to a Brazilian side, and the first of their two defeats in the old Intercontinental Cup came at the hands of Flamengo in 1981.
The Rubro-Negro have an opportunity to repeat that feat after a hugely dramatic Copa Libertadores final win over River Plate, which saw Gabriel Barbosa score twice in three minutes in a frantic finale to earn a 2-1 victory.
Like Liverpool, Flamengo enter at the semi-final stage, though forward Bruno Henrique has allowed himself to think about a prospective showpiece with Klopp’s side.
— FIFA.com (@FIFAcom) December 6, 2019
“Our goal is to become world champions,” Bruno Henrique told FIFA.com.
“Like us, Liverpool aren’t guaranteed a place in the final, despite their favouritism. We’re thinking about the semi-final first. But without doubt it would be amazing to face a team as good as Liverpool.”
NEW FRONTIER FOR AMATEURS HIENGHENE
The winners of the second-round clash between AFC Champions League winners Al Hilal and CAF Champions League kings ES Tunis will face Flamengo in the last four.
CONCACAF Champions League holders Monterrey must wait to learn their opponents in the second round, with an amateur side from New Caledonia out to make an impression in Doha.
OFC Champions League winners Hienghene Sport face Qatari side Al Sadd in the curtain raiser in Doha, and will be significant underdogs to book a meeting with Monterrey.
Welcome to Qatar, Hienghene Sport!
— FIFA.com (@FIFAcom) November 30, 2019
However, Hienghene’s Tahitian coach Felix Tagawa expects his side to be undaunted by their status as tournament minnows.
“I’m waiting for my team to play without fear,” Tagawa told FIFA.com. “We have players who like to play offensively and who are good footballers. It will be necessary to play with our forces, to play with our qualities, to play our football.
“We will discover the very high level of world football, but I trust my players and I know their potential. In any case we want to leave Qatar without regrets.”
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