Al Sadd coach Xavi attempted to ease the pressure on his team ahead of their Club World Cup quarter-final with Monterrey on Saturday.

Xavi's side squeezed past Hienghene Sport of New Caledonia in their previous match, with the unfancied OFC Champions League winners forcing extra time after a thrilling 1-1 draw.

Tournament hosts Al Sadd ultimately had too much for Hienghene, claiming a 3-1 win after the additional 30 minutes, though the performance appeared to show cracks in the Qatari club's armour.

There is no doubt in Xavi's mind what the outcome should be in Saturday's encounter with historic Mexican club Monterrey, who he considers to be of a higher level than Al Sadd.

"I'll tell my players that we have nothing to lose when we face tough teams," he said. "We are seen as the losers and we have to take advantage of that.

"The pressure is with Monterrey. They are a bigger name and have players at a higher level than we are.

"But everything is possible and if you want to achieve success, you have to try to be better."

CONCACAF Champions League winners Monterrey begin their campaign with Saturday's match, having beaten bitter rivals Tigres UANL in the two-legged final of their region's biggest competition in April and May.

But then-coach Diego Alonso was sacked in September after Tigres exacted their revenge in Liga MX.

Antonio Mohamed took over for a second spell in charge and remains unbeaten with nine wins in 12 competitive matches, allowing the Rayados to come into the Club World Cup with momentum.

Mohamed is relishing the opportunity to go up against Xavi, whom he admires, though his focus remains fixed on a potential match-up with Liverpool.

"If Xavi the coach is 50 per cent as good as he was as a player, he is going to be really successful," Mohamed said. "It's an honour to play against him.

"I know he was the perfect player on and off the pitch. He was very talented. We have followed his team and he is making them emulate Barcelona's style.

"They control the ball and this is a challenge for us. We will test our will, our ability and the possibility to have the upper hand from a tactical point of view.

"To play Liverpool, we have to win. We have to win, if we don't then the Liverpool match doesn't exist. By saying that we're coming for everything, we are preparing everyone to compete."

 

Players to watch

Monterrey – Rogelio Funes Mori

Funes Mori has begun to show the talent he was said to possess during his formative years at River Plate since joining Monterrey from Benfica in 2015. An underwhelming stint in Europe – which included a loan to Eskisehirspor – is well behind him and the former Argentina youth international is flourishing with the Rayados in another fine campaign. He heads into the game with six goals in his past four matches and is Monterrey's top scorer in Liga MX with 11, six more than Vincent Janssen.

Al Sadd –  Baghdad Bounedjah

In a match that had few positives for Al Sadd, given how they struggled for long periods against such an unfancied Hienghene side, Bounedjah did at least live up to his reputation. The sharpshooter opened the scoring with a well-taken volley in the first half and remained a threat, though he failed to add to his tally. Like Funes Mori, he has scored six times in his four most recent outings for club and country, though Bounedjah also netted an astonishing 39 in 22 Stars League matches last term.

Monterrey defender Nicolas Sanchez believes his team's biggest opponents against Al Sadd at the Club World Cup will be themselves.

The Mexican giants and Al Sadd will meet in Doha on Saturday looking to book a clash against European champions Liverpool in the semi-finals.

Sanchez feels Monterrey have the quality to beat Al Sadd, who edged past Hienghene Sport on Wednesday.

"I'm sure it will be a completely different game from what we saw [on Wednesday]. We didn't know any of the teams, except for some tapes, at least myself," he told a news conference.

"Now we have some idea of what we'll face on Saturday. Even though I think Saturday's game will have a different intensity, it won't be the same as yesterday. We saw a team that has the ball, that tries to create.

"We think that the greatest opponent this weekend are ourselves. If we manage to play with the intensity and the offensive power we show each matchday at Mexico we are sure we have strong weapons to face Al Sadd.

"We have to get it and we don't have to think the game will be easy."

Sanchez, 33, accepted Monterrey were favourites to move through into a meeting with Champions League holders Liverpool.

"There's no reason to hide it. We're the favourites for this weekend. Yesterday they [Al Sadd] were the favourites," he said.

"That doesn't guarantee anything. It doesn't mean the game will be easy."

Xavi is dreaming of the Club World Cup semi-finals after Al Sadd edged past Hienghene Sport in Doha on Wednesday.

Extra-time goals from Abdelkarim Hassan and Pedro Miguel saw Al Sadd to a 3-1 victory after Antoine Roine had earlier cancelled out Baghdad Bounedjah's opener.

Ahead of a clash against Monterrey on Saturday, Al Sadd head coach Xavi was pleased, although he lamented his side's wastefulness.

"We wasted a number of easy chances, we were not able to score. In extra time, we managed to score and were lucky that we did not go to penalties," he told a news conference, as per the club's website.

"I am happy to progress to the next round of the tournament."

The Barcelona great added: "We have dreams and goals in the upcoming game. We are 90 minutes away from the semi-final and we will strive to achieve our goal in the next game against Monterrey."

Xavi is expecting improvement from Al Sadd against the Mexican giants, with European champions Liverpool awaiting the winners.

"I know Monterrey, they have played very well after the change of coach. They are a quick side with many players in attack and are also good from set-pieces," he said.

"They are a very good side. If we play like we did today, things will be tough for us but if it’s our day, we can perform well."

Minnows Hienghene Sport produced an outstanding performance to force extra-time before going down 3-1 to Al Sadd in round one of the Club World Cup.

Al Sadd - coached by former Barcelona midfielder Xavi - had been expected to record a comfortable win at their home stadium against amateur opponents hailing from New Caledonia.

However, Hienghene threatened to pull off an incredible shock, and the winners of the OFC Champions League were only undone when goalkeeper Rocky Nyikeine picked up a backpass in the first period of extra-time and Abdelkarim Hassan thundered home from the resulting indirect free-kick, with Pedro Miguel subsequently adding a late third.

Al Sadd, who will now face Monterrey on Saturday, were more than worthy winners, having spurned a succession of clear-cut chances to seal victory in normal time, but Hienghene could be immensely proud of a display highlighted by Antoine Roine's 46th-minute strike, which was awarded after a lengthy VAR review.

Roine caught the eye in the first half, with a bicycle kick that drew a sharp save from Saad Al Sheeb, as Hienghene repeatedly threatened on the counter-attack.

Baghdad Bounedjah's cute volleyed finish from Hassan's left-wing cross put Al Sadd ahead after 26 minutes, and the Qatari side saw two further goals from Akram Afif and Hassan Al Haydos ruled out for offside following VAR reviews either side of Roine's stunning leveller.

The New Caledonian winger muscled Boualem Khoukhi off the ball and fired a superb finish into the bottom-right corner. Referee Mustapha Ghorbal initially awarded a foul against Roine, but the decision was reversed and Hienghene celebrated jubilantly.

Xavi's men piled on the pressure thereafter and the underdogs were grateful for a stunning fingertip save from Nyikeine and two goal-line blocks from Joseph Athale, the second a heroic effort that prompted a dramatic goalmouth scramble, as they clung on.

Afif and Jung Woo-young were guilty of abysmal misses as Al Sadd's pressure intensified, but they eventually found a way through when Nyikeine incorrectly picked up a backpass and Hassan took full advantage.

Hienghene were understandably tiring badly by this point and Bounedjah hit the bar before Miguel made it 3-1 with a powerful close-range finish.

Jurgen Klopp is hoping the knock suffered by Dejan Lovren during Liverpool's crucial Champions League win over Salzburg is a not a serious one.

Lovren, who limped out of Liverpool's 3-0 win at Bournemouth at the weekend in the first half because of cramp, was forced off 53 minutes into their 2-0 success in Austria, which clinched top spot in Group E.

Klopp believes Lovren may have been have affected by a recurrence of cramp, the German knowing his side can ill-afford to lose Lovren with their Club World Cup campaign looming.

"We hope Dejan is nothing serious," Klopp told BT Sport.

He later added in a post-match media conference: "We hope that it's exactly the same as last time. He felt something and we made the decision. It's of course not cool.

"He played really well and was very important. We don't know more in the moment. It felt similar like last time, that's it. We have to see."

Liverpool host Watford at the weekend and then face Aston Villa in an EFL Cup quarter-final clash in which they are expected to rest many of their senior players.

Following their trip to Villa Park, Liverpool travel to Qatar for the Club World Cup.

Xavi has challenged Al Sadd to reach the Club World Cup semi-finals and set up a clash with Liverpool in Qatar.

The former Barcelona midfielder was a two-time winner of the tournament as a player in 2009 and 2011 but will be in charge of Al Sadd this time around.

His side play Hienghene Sport, a team from New Caledonia who won the OFC Champions League this year, in Wednesday's opening match.

Xavi, who turns 40 in January, became coach of Al Sadd after they won the Qatar Stars League earlier this year.

The winners of the first-round match will go on to face Mexican side Monterrey, who are the reigning CONCACAF Champions League title-holders, and then the prize would be a semi-final against Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool.

"It's an honour to be here. It's one of the biggest tournaments in the world," Xavi said in a news conference.

"We are here to compete. We know the difficulty. We are here for success, to play good games, to show everybody our level because we have the best generation of Qatari players in history, in my opinion.

"They won together the Asian Cup in January of this year. We gave a good philosophy and we want to show everybody we can compete, but it will be tough, I have to be honest.

"I had the opportunity to play three times in this competition and I won it two times as a player. As a coach it's totally different. We'll try to do our best and I'm really excited as a coach to play this competition."

Asked about the possibility of a last-four clash with Liverpool, Xavi added: "It's a goal to be in the semi-final, but we have to respect all the teams and they will respect us a lot.

"Tomorrow we have a difficult game, a difficult club. We want to go step by step. It's part of the process. Football is the present and the present is tomorrow's game."

The tournament opener takes place at the Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium, Al Sadd's home ground, and they face a team from a town of barely 2,500 residents who have radically over-achieved to earn their place at this event.

Xavi said of his team's first task: "I try to say to them that the pressure now is on me. Don't be afraid to play football, otherwise it's impossible to have success.

"When you have the ball you cannot feel pressure otherwise you cannot play well. With my experience, when I was playing with pressure it was impossible to do things. For sure they will show they are ready to compete against everybody."

 

Player to watch

Al Sadd - Gabi

Like Xavi, former Atletico Madrid man Gabi boasts years of LaLiga experience and his playmaking ability should make him stand out from the pack at the level of Wednesday's game.

Hienghene Sport - Bertrand Kai

Kai, who manages a boarding school as a day job, won the Golden Ball award at the 2019 OFC Champions League as the competition's outstanding player. Like Gabi, he is 36 but a force to be reckoned with.

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.

"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.

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."

Liverpool's two Club World Cup matches have been moved from Al Rayyan to Doha after FIFA was forced to switch the venue for the final.

The new Education City Stadium was scheduled to host the European champions in a semi-final on December 18, in addition to the final and third-place play-off on December 21.

But the official opening of the 40,000-seat venue has been delayed until 2020 after FIFA failed to complete the relevant test events on time.

The matches have been moved to the Khalifa International Stadium, which will now host five games in total.

"Construction at Education City Stadium is complete and the venue is now operational," read a FIFA statement.

"However, the necessary certification process took longer than expected and therefore the stadium was unable to host the required test events prior to the semi-final and final of the FIFA Club World Cup at full capacity.

"The priority is to ensure an enjoyable experience for all fans so it was decided to open the stadium at a later date."

Liverpool said club officials would visit Qatar in the coming days to inspect Khalifa International Stadium, "as per our protocols".

The tournament is due to begin on December 11, when Xavi's Al Sadd take on OFC Champions League winners Hienghene Sport at Jassim bin Hamad Stadium in Doha.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp claimed some people are willing the club to fail during a gruelling schedule of fixtures.

The Reds are eight points clear at the top of the Premier League and face a crunch game against Salzburg to make the knockout phase of the Champions League on Tuesday.

Liverpool also have the Club World Cup and an EFL Cup quarter-final on the horizon before an intense festive period.

Klopp's squad will be tested to its full capabilities, but he has backed his players to respond to the challenge and accept being rotated.

"When you are in a good position there are a lot who celebrate early, some hope you fail," Klopp told a news conference ahead Saturday's Premier League clash with Bournemouth.

"We are in a difficult situation with the games but accepted it. We have to deal with it.

"These players have a desire to show that they are good enough and they can deliver in moments like this. It is not that complicated; you just need players who understand the situation.

"I know when you're a football supporter, you want to play the best 11 all the time but this is not FIFA or the PlayStation. It's just how it is."

Liverpool will be forced to field separate teams in fixtures for the Club World Cup and EFL Cup, which take place a day apart on different continents.

Klopp has selected a strong 23-man squad for the trip to Qatar for the former and will give the club's youngsters a chance in the quarter-final of the latter against Aston Villa.

The Liverpool boss said he ruled out the possibility of splitting his squad in two.

Klopp continued: "For us, there was absolutely no chance to do it differently, in the moment when it was clear when it would be played and all the other dates were absolutely not possible for us to play it later.

"We won the game against Arsenal, a very exciting game and I loved it, and in that moment it was clear, now we have to find a solution and the solution will not be perfect. But we try to make it as perfect as possible.

"We go with a specific squad to Qatar and try our best there. And the other ones will play here. If somebody thought I should have done it differently, I cannot change that.

"I know everybody thinks 'no chance' but football is a wonderful game.

"If you want, I'm responsible even for that game [against Villa], not being there. So they have no pressure, they just should fight for each inch on the pitch and enjoy themselves."

Klopp also expressed sympathy with sacked Everton manager Marco Silva after a 5-2 defeat in the Merseyside derby on Wednesday spelled the end of his tenure at Goodison Park.

The German felt Silva was not solely to blame for the club's struggles on the pitch.

"Marco is a great manager, but they thought they needed change. But we all accept this when we take a job," Klopp added.

"It is for sure not all Silva's fault. That is the situation of a coach and we all accept that. 

"I feel for him. Since I'm in England, Everton are how we all know, ambitious with big history. I said when I came in that we don't carry our history as a backpack.

"One club from the same city that has positive development and you try to catch them, that is what the manager always tries."

Liverpool will take a strong squad to the Club World Cup later this month as expected, meaning a youthful selection will contest the EFL Cup clash with Aston Villa.

Jurgen Klopp's European champions are due to play their Club World Cup semi-final in Qatar on December 18, the day after going up against Villa in the EFL Cup quarter-finals.

Liverpool had attempted to get the trip to Villa Park rescheduled on account of the fixture clash, but the EFL were unable to facilitate such a move following discussions.

As such, Klopp previously stated he would have to name two separate squads for the matches.

Thursday's confirmation of a strong first-choice squad heading to Doha means Villa can expect to face a young side in the EFL Cup, though Harvey Elliott, Neco Williams and Curtis Jones will also join the travelling Club World Cup party.

The only first-team players not selected are Joel Matip, Nathaniel Clyne and Fabinho, who are recovering from injuries.

 

Liverpool's Club World Cup squad:

Alisson, Andy Lonergan, Adrian; Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez, Dejan Lovren, Andy Robertson, Alexander-Arnold, Neco Williams; Georginio Wijnaldum, James Milner, Naby Keita, Curtis Jones, Jordan Henderson, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Harvey Elliott, Adam Lallana, Xherdan Shaqiri; Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah, Rhian Brewster, Divock Origi.

Jurgen Klopp is unfazed about potentially leading Liverpool to a first FIFA Club World Cup title, but the manager is excited about the opportunity.

The European champions will be favourites for the tournament in Doha in December.

Liverpool have never won the FIFA Club World Cup, finishing as runners-up in 2005, but leading the Premier League giants to a first success at the tournament is not a focus for Klopp.

"Oh, I didn't think about that. I'm not someone who has to be the first on the moon or the first winning the World Cup with Liverpool, but when we are there then we will try with all we have," he told FIFA.com.

"The very interesting and difficult part as well is that we'll be playing against teams from other continents, which doesn't happen that often – maybe a Mexican team, maybe a Brazilian team – and it will be a tough one for sure.

"We'll prepare for it as we would usually, and we will see if it's right or wrong against the team from another continent.

"We don't have too much information yet, but we will by then for sure, and it will be interesting and difficult as well."

Liverpool will play Monterrey, Al-Sadd or Hienghene Sport in the semi-finals on December 18.

Klopp said there was no additional pressure on Liverpool, urging his team to make the most of the chance ahead of them.

"We will see. So far, I don't feel any pressure. I see it as an absolute opportunity as you don't often have the chance to play for it," he said.

"You have to win the Champions League as the European team, so that already makes it special.

"We knew it'd feel great when we won the Champions League, but then we had no real clue how it'd be around the European Super Cup. So, we played it and it felt really great and really big.

"When we go there, we will be prepared and looking forward to it. The boys want to play it, so it will be very interesting, and it will feel big for us, 100 per cent."

Liverpool will play Aston Villa in the EFL Cup on December 17 as initially planned, despite their Club World Cup campaign beginning just 24 hours later.

The club have been in talks with the EFL over the possibility of rearranging the match due to their commitments with the FIFA tournament in Qatar.

Liverpool have reached a compromise with organisers that will allow them to select a squad for the EFL Cup quarter-final that will be entirely different to the group of players who will head to Qatar.

"The club would like to take this opportunity to underline that, while this is not an ideal scenario, it is an outcome which was arrived at with the best interests of the competition, our fellow clubs and ourselves as the sole motivating factor," Liverpool said in a statement.

"We would like to thank the EFL for their efforts to accommodate us, and we can confirm alternative dates were discussed, but ultimately none were considered suitable without compromising the scheduling of the competition itself or placing an undue strain on our playing staff."

Although EFL Cup rules state all clubs must play with "full available strength in and during all Cup Competition matches, unless some satisfactory reason is given", the EFL has granted Liverpool leave to name separate squads given the "exceptional circumstances" and the fact that Jurgen Klopp fielded a much-changed line-up in the previous round against Arsenal.

EFL Football Services Director, Dave Cookson, said in a statement: "The EFL is very aware of the challenges clubs face when participating across numerous competitions at home and abroad, and whilst we will always look to work with clubs our overwhelming priority has to be to protect the integrity of the [EFL] Cup and ensure any decisions taken are in the best interests of the competition.

"The EFL has long-acknowledged that this competition provides those clubs with large resources with the opportunity to rotate their squads knowing that teams who wish to be successful have to be prepared to play a large amount of matches over the course of the season.

"Therefore, in these exceptional circumstances, the decision was taken having received clear assurances from the club that there will be a level of consistency in team selection, a feature which is key to ensuring integrity is maintained.

"We recognise the challenges Liverpool face in this matter and appreciate the efforts made to find a practical solution. Finally, I would like to wish the club well in representing the English game at the upcoming FIFA Club World Cup in Qatar."

The Liverpool squad that will stay in England for the clash at Villa Park is expected to be similar to the one used in the thrilling 5-5 draw with Arsenal, a match the Red won on penalties.

James Milner, Joe Gomez, Naby Keita, Adam Lallana, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Divock Origi were the senior players to start that match.

Liverpool are scheduled to play five matches in the space of 11 days from December 10 to December 21: they face Salzburg in the Champions League and Watford in the Premier League before the cup meeting with Villa and then two matches at the Club World Cup.

They will then have five days of rest before facing Leicester City away.

The decision keeps Liverpool in both competitions, despite Klopp's warning in the aftermath of the Arsenal game that the club could withdraw if "a proper date" was not found. Rivals Manchester United notably pulled out of the 1999-2000 FA Cup due to their own involvement in the Club World Cup.

Jurgen Klopp is open to fielding two entirely different teams in the EFL Cup and Club World Cup next month but says Liverpool's star men would be in Qatar.

The European champions are due to play a Club World Cup semi-final on December 18 - the day after a scheduled domestic quarter-final at Aston Villa.

Klopp suggested after Wednesday's remarkable last-16 victory over Arsenal that his side may have to pull out of the EFL Cup altogether, but an alternative solution may yet be found.

The Liverpool boss made 11 changes against Arsenal and, in a bid to fulfil nine fixtures in December, he might consider leaving a young squad of fringe players behind to face Villa.

"We have discussed it already," Klopp said at Friday's news conference before playing Villa in the Premier League. "We have to because there's not too much time to make that decision. 

"There's not a final decision yet but, if we would play while we are in Qatar, it would be two different teams. We cannot leave any [senior] players at home for the EFL Cup - we have two games [in Qatar] in a very busy period. 

"It's not that we can go there with 11 players and say these 11 guys play the two games in Qatar and the other [senior] guys play at home in England against Aston Villa. We have to make a decision and we will make a decision but not yet."

Klopp also criticised the scheduling of Liverpool's festive fixtures last year and has previously taken aim at UEFA for putting further demands on his international players with the introduction of the Nations League.

When asked if there is a concern his players are being pushed too far, Klopp offered an impassioned reply as he highlighted some issues with the English football calendar.

"Let's have a look how they deal with it," he said. "If you see the schedule that's coming up, it's all okay.

"The Premier League, what a competition, sensationally cool; then the EFL Cup, nice competition, what a game we had on Wednesday night. 

"But then at the end of January, after a very busy schedule in December, there are two semi-finals. It's an easy decision for me to say if you keep that competition then why don't you make just two semi-finals?

"We still have, in February, March and April, FA Cup games at the weekend.

"I'm four years in and, before I knew about it, people discussed it already. That's the difference to other countries - Italy has 20 teams as well.

"England is the only country where nobody wants to touch it, or maybe wants to touch it - the FA wants to touch the League Cup, the Football League wants to touch the FA Cup - but nobody really wants to discuss it. 

"Then, on top of that, UEFA decides to make the Nations League to give the boys who are already pretty busy - some very successful players, good players - another couple of intense games. 

"I said it before and it always sounds like it's my problem. I'm not involved in Nations League games, I don't play international games at all. I have a couple of days off, it's not my problem. I only discuss from the same perspective that you should discuss it but you don't."

Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola backed Klopp's stance on fixture congestion and called on the relevant governing bodies to do more to protect players.

"I completely agree," he said. "How do we pay bigger squads? We need less fixtures, less competitions, more recovery. We play [December] 27 or 29 in winter time.

"In UEFA meetings, always they talk about it. I'm with Jurgen when he makes these kind of statements about too many games."

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp warned the Reds might have to pull out of the EFL Cup if their quarter-final tie is not suitably scheduled.

Klopp's Liverpool overcame a wild clash with Arsenal at Anfield, where the European champions prevailed 5-4 on penalties following a remarkable 5-5 draw on Wednesday.

Liverpool twice came from behind against Arsenal in a stunning comeback on Merseyside, but Klopp quickly threw his team's quarter-final participation in doubt afterwards.

Champions League holders Liverpool are due to feature at the Club World Cup, which will be held between December 17-21 in Qatar – the same week the EFL Cup quarters are scheduled to take place.

"We will not be the victim of this problem," Klopp told reporters post-game midweek. "We play tonight, we wanted to win it, we did that, and if they don't find a proper date for us, then we cannot play the next round and whoever is our opponent will go through. Or Arsenal play them.

"I'm not concerned, somebody else has to be concerned because we didn't make the fixture list, we didn't make the schedule.

"I've said it already, FIFA told us the Club World Cup will be there [Qatar] and we have to come there and we will do. The Premier League tells us we have to play in the Premier League, which we do obviously.

"The Carabao Cup, what we did tonight, if they don't find an appropriate place for us, not 3am on Christmas Day, then we don't play it. They have to make that decision. You have to think about these things.

"If you have a fixture list where one team cannot be part of all the games, then you have to think about the fixture list. Hopefully it starts now. I really think that's fair, and this problem is obvious now.

"We are going to ignore that problem completely for tonight. A lot of people from the Premier League were sitting in front of the television hoping that Arsenal can do it. But, I'm sorry."

China will host a revamped Club World Cup in 2021, FIFA has announced.

The game's governing body made the announcement following a meeting in Shanghai on Thursday.

Although its prestige has often paled against other trophy targets for European sides, a redesigned Club World Cup will expand to 24 teams following the final two iterations of the existing seven-team format in Qatar in 2019 and 2020.

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin has strongly opposed the move, which is seen by some as an attempt to position the competition as a rival to Europe's Champions League.

Ceferin last year described FIFA as "behaving strangely", but Gianni Infantino, president of the global body, pressed ahead with rolling out plans for the new-look tournament.

It will be played between June and July 2021 and replaces the Confederations Cup, held every four years, on the international calendar.

A FIFA statement added: "The participation model to determine the clubs that qualify from each confederation will be finalised in a consultation process between FIFA and the six confederations."

The 2019 Club World Cup begins in Doha in December.

Meanwhile, FIFA confirmed the host for the 2030 World Cup will be chosen in 2024, at the 74th congress meeting, with the bidding process to be launched in the second quarter of 2022.

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