The Club World Cup begins on Wednesday as seven teams compete to become world champions.

Representatives from each confederation will take part over 11 days in Morocco, with Real Madrid favourites to end up lifting the trophy.

That is not to disrespect any of the other participants, but Europe's stranglehold on the competition simply cannot be denied.

Although South American teams won the first three editions in its current format, the only occasion in the last 15 where the Champions League winners have not triumphed was in 2012 when Corinthians defeated Chelsea in the final, the last time Europe's best did not succeed.

With four-time Club World Cup winners Madrid present, can anyone realistically stop Carlo Ancelotti's men? Stats Perform has taken a look at the other participants.

CONMEBOL – Flamengo

It would be fair to assume that, as the only other confederation to claim the prize, the South American representatives will always be seen as the biggest challengers to Europe.

Flamengo have participated in the Club World Cup before, having reached the final in 2019 only to lose 1-0 to Liverpool after extra time.

The Mengao have faced some recent upheaval with head coach Dorival Junior leaving despite winning the Copa do Brasil and Copa Libertadores, just the third time they had prevailed in South America's premier competition.

Former Fenerbahce and Corinthians boss Vitor Pereira arrived in December and will be relying on star striker Gabriel Barbosa to fire his team to glory, as the ex-Inter man did when he scored the only goal of the Libertadores final against Athletico Paranaense in October.

Despite promising young midfielder Joao Gomes leaving for Premier League side Wolves, Pereira will hope his new team can at least make their way to the February 11 final when they face either hosts Wydad Casablanca or Al Hilal in the final four.

CONCACAF – Seattle Sounders

The Sounders are carrying the hopes not only of Seattle but of MLS as a whole. Due to a series of CONCACAF Champions League heartbreaks for American and Canadian clubs prior to Seattle's triumph last May, the league has had a long, long wait for representation on the world stage.

It is fitting then that the Sounders should be the team to do it, having broken so many barriers since arriving in MLS in 2009, selling out stadiums, enjoying instant success and signing big-name stars from European clubs.

Although the 2022 season saw the Sounders' ever-present record in the MLS playoffs ended, that was no reflection of the quality of this squad; injuries badly hampered Brian Schmetzer's side after their early-season focus on that successful Champions League campaign.

Joao Paulo is back fit again, Raul Ruidiaz provides a goal threat, Jordan Morris' pace causes problems for any defence, and captain Nicolas Lodeiro – a veteran of two World Cups – knits it all together.

The Sounders – and those watching back home – will be desperate to get through the second round and have a crack at heavyweights Madrid.

 

CAF – Wydad Casablanca

Otherwise known as Wydad AC, the Moroccans would have sealed their place regardless of being hosts after lifting the CAF Champions League in May.

Under the guidance of Walid Regragui before he left to lead the Morocco national team to the semi-finals of the World Cup, Zouhair El Moutaraji's two goals in the final against Al Ahly brought Wydad their third Champions League title.

Their record in this competition is less impressive, with their only previous involvement coming in 2017 when they were beaten by Mexico's Pachuca in the second round, before going down 3-2 to Japan's Urawa Reds in the fifth-place playoff.

Former Racing Santander and Birmingham City player Mehdi Nafti took over from Regragui after leaving LaLiga side Levante late last year, and Regragui thinks they can improve on their 2017 showing at least.

"I think the trap game is Al Hilal [second round]. If they manage to pass Al Hilal, they can go to the final against Real Madrid. Everything is possible," the Morocco coach told FIFA.com.

AFC – Al Hilal

The four-time AFC Champions League winners will compete with Wydad in the second round, with the winner going on to face Flamengo in the final four.

Ramon Diaz returned for a second spell in charge, and like several other head coaches at the Club World Cup, was not actually the one who lifted the trophy that got his team here in the first place.

Former Monaco boss Leonardo Jardim was in charge when Al Hilal beat Korea's Pohang Steelers in November 2021, before leaving by mutual consent to be replaced by Diaz.

Diaz is unsurprisingly the only former Oxford United manager at the Club World Cup, but the 63-year-old has plenty of talent to call upon in his quest for glory in Morocco.

Odion Ighalo and Luciano Vietto will be accompanied by a number of players from Saudi Arabia's impressive World Cup campaign, with Al Hilal looking to improve on their last CWC campaign when they were beaten by Chelsea in the semi-finals and Al Ahly in the third-place playoff in 2022.

CAF – Al Ahly

Al Ahly are also back again, somewhat fortuitously as they inherit Wydad's assigned host spot following the Moroccans beating them in the CAF Champions League final.

This will be the Egyptian side's eighth appearance at the Club World Cup, with their most impressive previous campaign seeing them finish third after beating Brazilian's Palmeiras on penalties in 2021.

Head coach Marcel Koller also played no part in his team's qualification for this competition, with the former Austria boss only arriving in September.

With a number of Egypt's national team players to call on, they will be hoping to repeat their previous meeting with Auckland City in the first round when they beat the New Zealanders 2-0 in 2006. 

OFC – Auckland City

This will be the 10th appearance for the Navy Blues, but they are back again after their 3-0 win against Tahiti's Venus in the 2022 OFC Champions League final.

That was overseen by head coach Albert Riera, not to be confused with the former Liverpool and Galatasaray winger, who took charge in December 2021.

Riera will be hoping to at least match his team's best ever performance at the CWC, when they came third in 2014 after winning on penalties against Mexico's Cruz Azul. 

It would take a momentous effort for anyone to stop Madrid, who somehow overcame Paris Saint-Germain, Chelsea, Manchester City and Liverpool on their way to Europe's Champions League title last season.

Never say never, though.

Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice yet Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe helped Paris Saint-Germain defeat Riyadh All-Stars 5-4 in a thrilling friendly.

The exhibition at King Fahd International Stadium on Thursday saw 21 shots on target, nine goals, a red card for Juan Bernat and a penalty miss from Neymar.

Having had his debut for new club Al Nassr delayed due to a domestic ban carried over from his time at Manchester United, Ronaldo's first game since moving to Saudi Arabia came for a hybrid XI that also contained players from Al Hilal.

It set up a reunion with long-time rival and fellow multiple Ballon d'Or winner Lionel Messi in what was their first meeting on the pitch of any sort since Juventus beat Barcelona 3-0 in the Champions League group stage in 2020.

Messi came out on top in terms of scoreline in this 37th encounter between the pair, with PSG pulling away in a game that the hosts levelled on three occasions, but Ronaldo outscored the 2022 World Cup winner.

Neymar, Mbappe and Messi all combined for the latter to open the scoring inside the opening three minutes, but Ronaldo equalised from a penalty he himself won after being caught in the face by Keylor Navas.

PSG lost Bernat to a straight red card for his last-man challenge just inside the opposition half, though they were soon back in front through a close-range Marquinhos finish from Mbappe's assist.

Neymar missed the chance to extend PSG's lead when having a tame penalty saved, and that proved costly when Ronaldo glanced in a trademark header on the stroke of half-time.

PSG still could not shake off their opponents after Sergio Ramos' strike, teed up by Mbappe, was cancelled out by Jang Hyun-soo's header less than three minutes later.

Mbappe capped an impressive display with a goal of his own from the penalty spot on the hour mark. He was then subbed off, along with Messi, Neymar and Ronaldo.

The tempo of the game dropped from that point but the entertainment continued until full-time as Anderson Talisca pulled back a late goal after Hugo Ekitike had seemingly put PSG out of sight, though the Riyadh All-Stars could not equalise for a fifth time.

Real Madrid could face Seattle Sounders in their Club World Cup semi-final following Friday's draw.

UEFA Champions League winners Madrid will enter the tournament in Morocco at the last-four stage next month.

Carlo Ancelotti's side will have to wait to learn the identity of their opponents, but it could be MLS debutants Seattle.

The Sounders are the first American team to reach the Club World Cup, having won the 2022 CONCACAF Champions League final against Liga MX's UNAM.

Seattle are to make their debut in the second round against the winner of the sole first-round tie between CAF runners-up Al Ahly and OFC champions Auckland City.

The victors in that match will then go through to face Madrid, record four-time world champions.

On the other side of the draw, Copa Libertadores winners Flamengo, who were finalists against Liverpool in 2019, are to take on either CAF champions Wydad Casablanca – also hosts Morocco's representative – or AFC nominees Al Hilal.

With the two semi-finals to take place on February 7 and 8, the final and third-place play-off will follow on February 11.

Arsenal's interest in Shakhtar Donetsk midfielder Mykhaylo Mudryk is well known, having pursued him in the last transfer window.

The 22-year-old Ukraine winger has scored 10 goals in 18 appearances for Shakhtar this term, enhancing his value.

Mudryk has also had interest from Sevilla and Chelsea, with the Gunners having reportedly previously made two bids for his services.

TOP STORY - GUNNERS CLOSE IN ON AGREEMENT FOR MUDRYK DEAL

Arsenal have tabled a fresh third bid worth €70m (£62m) plus add-ons for key target Mykhaylo Mudryk of Shakhtar Donetsk, claims Fabrizio Romano.

Talks are ongoing with no breakthrough but the two parties are getting closer to agreement, while Mudryk posted a praying emoji on Instagram in a sign he wants to make the move.

The Daily Express claims that the two clubs have come to an agreement on the fee, with negotiations entering the "final stage".

 

ROUND-UP

- Al Hilal, rivals of Cristiano Ronaldo's new Saudi Arabian club Al Nassr, are plotting a €275m move for World Cup winner Lionel Messi from Paris Saint-Germain, reports Mundo Deportivo. The Sun has reported Messi's father Jorge has been spotted in Saudi Arabia too.

- Arsenal are also again interested in Juventus forward Dusan Vlahovic, reports La Repubblica. According to the report, the Serbian is valued at €110m (£97.7m).

- Sport claims that Newcastle United have tabled an offer for Barcelona's Dutch forward Memphis Depay.

- PSG are set to offer Milan Skriniar a €12m-a-year contract, provided he agrees to leave Inter on a free transfer, reports La Repubblica. Skriniar's Inter deal concludes at the end of this season.

- AS reports that PSG have accepted a bid for Wolves for 30-year-old Spanish midfielder Pablo Sarabia.

- Besiktas are turning to Wolves' forward Raul Jimenez to replace Manchester United-bound Wout Weghorst, according to Fotospor.

Atletico Madrid are reportedly ready to part ways with their club-record signing, setting a €100million asking price for Portuguese forward Joao Felix.

Felix, 23, was purchased from Benfica back in 2019 for a fee of €126m – shattering their transfer record by more than €50m.

He helped Atletico to a LaLiga title in the 2020-21 season, before being named the club's Player of the Season for the 2021-22 campaign, but he has now fallen out of favour, starting just five of his side's 14 league games.

Felix has been able to put himself in the shop window during his two starts to begin Portugal's World Cup group stage, including a goal against Ghana, and now Champions League contenders are expected to come calling in January.

 

TOP STORY – PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN NAMED AS ONE OF THREE SUITORS FOR FELIX

Paris Saint-Germain, Bayern Munich and Manchester United have been named the main interested parties by Spanish publication AS.

The report states Felix's relationship with head coach Diego Simeone has become too strained to continue persisting, and includes a claim that Atletico rejected a €130m offer from United before the season.

With his contract tying him to the club until 2026, there will be no need to settle for an offer deemed unsatisfactory, but AS believes anything approaching that €100m figure – including bonuses – will be enough to get a deal done.

 

ROUND-UP

– Sport is reporting Barcelona view 32-year-old Manchester City midfielder Ilkay Gundogan as a potential replacement for Sergio Busquets when the German international's contract expires after the season.

– According to Express, Saudi Arabian clubs Al Hilal and Al-Nassr are considered the leading candidates to fight it out for ex-United superstar Cristiano Ronaldo.

Paris Saint-Germain will offer Lionel Messi a new contract at the conclusion of the World Cup, according to Goal.

Chelsea and Newcastle United are competing to land 18-year-old Vasco da Gama midfielder Andrey Santos, per 90min.

– Gazzetta dello Sport is reporting Milan would like to bring in Chelsea winger Hakim Ziyech on a loan deal with the option to make it permanent, but the Moroccan's contract demands could be too expensive.

Cristiano Ronaldo's departure from Manchester United this week has put plenty of clubs on alert.

The five-time Ballon d'Or winner is a wanted commodity, given his quality and sudden availability.

Ronaldo and United parted ways with a mutual termination of his contract after his explosive interview with TalkTV.

 

TOP STORY – SAUDI AND BRAZILIAN GIANTS TO MOVE FOR RONALDO

Saudi Arabian club Al Hilal and Brazilian giants Flamengo are among the clubs queuing to sign free agent Cristiano Ronaldo according to reports.

Sky Sports claims that Al Hilal are exploring a deal with the Portuguese, who had declined a £305m bid from an unnamed Saudi Arabian club in the off-season.

Brazilian outlet Veja reports that the 2022 Copa Libertadores winners intend to formalize a proposal to Ronaldo's representatives, although an offer has not yet been made, nor have talks commenced.

 

ROUND-UP 

- Football Insider reports that Chelsea are set to open talks with Brighton and Hove Albion's Belgian forward Leandro Trossard with his contract to expire at the end of season. New Blues boss Graham Potter knows Trossard well from his time at Brighton.

- Chelsea are ready to swoop for Manchester United target Diogo Costa, having made contact with him, according to Relevo. The goalkeeper recently re-signed with Porto and has a €75 million (£64.5m) release clause in his contract.

- Amid talk that Chelsea will try to sell Romelu Lukaku at the end of this season, SkySport claims Inter will extend the Belgian forward's loan for another year.

- Torino's Ivorian defender Wilfried Singo could snub interest from Juventus to remain with his current club, reports Calciomercato.

- Fabrizio Romano claims that Scottish champions Celtic are in talks with Canada international Alistair Johnston, with personal terms already being discussed. The right-back is currently with MLS club Montreal.

- QPR are anticipating the departure of manager Michael Beale to take over Rangers, claims Talk Sport. The Gers sacked Giovanni van Bronckhorst earlier this week.

Cristiano Ronaldo held talks with Al-Hilal over a possible move from Manchester United during the transfer window, according to the Saudi club's president Fahad ben Nafel.

The Portugal international was repeatedly linked with an exit from Old Trafford following the arrival of Erik ten Hag, but a move away did not materialise before the deadline.

Riyadh-based Al-Hilal, who won the Saudi Professional League last season, were one of a number of teams touted as a possible destination for Ronaldo.

They were reported at the time to have offered Ronaldo a two-year deal worth the equivalent of a mammoth £211million, which works out at around £2m a week.

And in an interview on the Thamanya YouTube channel, Ben Nafel claims a blockbuster deal for Ronaldo only fell through due to the club being placed under a transfer ban.

"Yes, we negotiated with Ronaldo. The problem was not in the money or the principle," he said.

"Al-Hilal is able to bring in the stars of the world, but it was in the decision of the Sports Arbitration Center that prevented us from registering the players.

"We did not stop negotiating with the players despite the decision to ban, but we were delaying entering the final stage of the negotiations until the ban was lifted."

Ronaldo rejoined United from Juventus in August 2021 and has another eight months to run on his existing contract.

The 37-year-old missed the majority of United's pre-season campaign owing to family reasons and has started just one of their six Premier League games this term.

Cristiano Ronaldo would be welcomed to the Saudi Pro League with open arms if he were to leave Manchester United, according to the president of the Saudi Arabian Football Federation Yasser Almisehal.

Ronaldo reportedly asked to leave United after they missed out on Champions League qualification last season, but was unable to secure an Old Trafford exit before the transfer window closed.

A host of potential suitors including Bayern Munich, Atletico Madrid and Napoli all publicly ruled out signing the five-time Ballon d'Or winner, who has endured a frustrating start to the new campaign.

Since Erik ten Hag took charge at United, Ronaldo has started just one of the Red Devils' six Premier League games, while fellow forwards Marcus Rashford (523), Jadon Sancho (423) and Anthony Elanga (215) have all bettered his 207 minutes of league action.

Amid a lack of takers in Europe, Ronaldo was also linked with Saudi Arabian outfit Al Hilal, and Almisehal hopes a deal to take him to the country can still be struck.

"We would love to see a player like Cristiano Ronaldo playing in the Saudi league," he told The Athletic.

"It would bring a huge positive feedback and it would be big news for everyone. I'm sure everyone knows the achievements and records of Cristiano Ronaldo, but also as a player who is a great role model.

"Why not? I'm sure it would be a very expensive deal, of course, but we can see our clubs getting higher revenues in the past couple of years. 

"We have already seen some big players who used to play in the Premier League come to the Saudi league. I like Cristiano Ronaldo as a player and I would like to see him play in Saudi Arabia."

Asked whether bringing the legendary 37-year-old to Saudi Arabia was a realistic proposition, Almisehal added: "To be honest, I don't have the answer. 

"If I was the president of a club, I could give you the answer. But my colleagues at the clubs don't have to share their negotiations with me.

"It wouldn't be an easy transaction for a Saudi club or even for him, but we would love to see him or even some other top players of the same level."

Al Ahly finished third at the Club World Cup after a chaotic play-off saw them win 4-0 against an Al Hilal side who had two players red-carded in the opening 28 minutes.

Egyptian giants Al Ahly were on easy street for much of the game, with Saudi rivals Al Hilal the architects of their own downfall.

Al Ahly took an eighth-minute lead when Yasser Ibrahim headed in from close range, and the first red followed six minutes later when Matheus Pereira went in dangerously on Amr El Soleya near the halfway line.

Another close-range header from Ibrahim put Al Ahly two goals to the good, after Mohamed Hany's fizzing 25-yard drive was parried by Mohammed Al Owais.

A laughably petulant off-the-ball kick by Mohamed Kanno on goalscorer Ibrahim resulted in a second red being brandished by referee Clement Turpin shortly before the half-hour mark, and it was 3-0 inside 40 minutes when Ahmed Radwan danced through the depleted and deflated opposition ranks to flick home from five yards.

El Soleya scored the goal of the game to make it 4-0 in the 64th minute, drilling a 28-yard strike into the bottom-left corner.

Chelsea assistant coach Zsolt Low heaped praise on Kepa Arrizabalaga following his impressive display in the Club World Cup semi-final win over Al-Hilal.

The 2020-21 Champions League winners progressed to the final of the competition, where they will face Palmeiras after scraping past the Asian champions 1-0.

Romelu Lukaku's 32nd-minute strike settled the contest at the Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi, but it was a generally lacklustre display by Chelsea.

After controlling large periods of the first half, recording 61.9 per cent of possession, the Blues only registered 45.4 per cent after the break and had to rely on important saves from Kepa to keep Al-Hilal at bay.

The Spain international, who was given the nod ahead of Edouard Mendy following the latter's return from his Africa Cup of Nations triumph with Senegal, denied Plymouth Argyle's Ryan Hardie from the penalty spot in the narrow FA Cup victory on Saturday.

Meanwhile, the pick of his saves against Al-Hilal four days on saw him deny Mohamed Kanno in brilliant fashion.

And Low, who oversaw Chelsea in the absence of Thomas Tuchel following a positive COVID-19 test, highlighted the performance of his goalkeeper.

"[Kepa's] very important," he said. "In the cup, he did a big performance to save the penalty. 

"Today when we needed him, he was there and made one big save. 

"He's in very good shape; he plays and trains well. We're lucky to have him. 

"In the next days, we have to decide who plays the final. 

"We're waiting for Thomas' opinion and the goalkeeping coaches before we take the decision for the final."

Low also applauded Lukaku, who netted his first goal since the 5-1 win over Chesterfield in the FA on January 8.

Other than his strike, though, the Belgium international registered just one shot on goal – straight at the goalkeeper – and was caught offside on three occasions.

Nevertheless, Low insisted he was delighted with the striker's efforts.

"Everyone's very happy he scored," he added. 

"He fought very hard and tried hard in the last game; that's why we gave him the chance. 

"We hoped for a bit of luck to score today. He's very happy, we're very happy and hope he continues and scores in the final."

Chelsea made hard work of reaching the Club World Cup final with a 1-0 win against Al Hilal in the last four on Wednesday.

Thomas Tuchel's side – playing without their coach following his positive coronavirus test – were in control from the outset and should never have been in danger of becoming the first European champions to fall short of the final since Manchester United in 2000.

But slack play in the final third, when both shooting and playing the final pass, meant Romelu Lukaku's first-half strike was their only goal and Kepa Arrizabalaga had to step up at the other end. 

Asian champions Al Hilal, who had scored six against Al Jazira in the previous round, remained in the game until the final whistle but could not find the leveller to prevent Chelsea advancing to face Palmeiras in Saturday's decider.

Setting the tone for much of the contest, Lukaku had initially been frustrated in his pursuit of a first goal in more than a month, repeatedly taking up promising positions without finding the finishing touch.

But Chelsea's record signing could not miss on 32 minutes when Kai Havertz's cross bounced kindly off unwitting defender Yasser Al-Shahrani into the six-yard box, allowing the forward to slam into the net right-footed.

Havertz came close to scoring himself at the start of the second half as he followed a brilliant run down the left by beating Abdullah Al-Mayoof from a tight angle, only for the ball to bounce back out off the near post.

With Al Hilal still just one behind, Kepa was twice required to come to Chelsea's rescue, advancing from his line to block from Moussa Marega and then pulling off a sublime stop from Mohamed Kanno.

An extended spell of pressure followed, but Chelsea held on to give themselves a second shot at a first Club World Cup title after 2012's final failure.


What does it mean? Improvement needed to avoid final repeat

Wasteful Chelsea underperformed their expected goals total of 1.60, but that figure also does not take into account the numerous occasions when the final ball was not quite right or Lukaku mistimed his run.

Such profligacy allowed Al Hilal to grow into the game and rack up 12 shots worth a combined 0.95 xG themselves – albeit while similarly failing to convert.

Palmeiras, Chelsea's final opponents, may not be quite so forgiving, and Blues supporters have painful memories of coming up short against Brazilian opponents after Corinthians were crowned world champions 10 years ago.

Keeper Kepa keeps delivering

Edouard Mendy enjoyed a warm welcome as he linked up with the Chelsea squad having won the Africa Cup of Nations with Senegal, but the goalkeeper has scarcely been missed – particularly in the past two matches.

Kepa counted an 118th-minute penalty among four saves in a nervy FA Cup win over Plymouth Argyle on Saturday and had to be at his best again against Al Hilal. There were three stops this time, with his save from Kanno the game's standout moment.

Still Luk-ing for best form

Lukaku would have been relieved to get on the scoresheet having not netted since a 5-1 win against Chesterfield on January 8.

Yet there were few signs of a scoring return triggering an improvement in performance levels here. Besides his goal, Lukaku had only one shot – straight at the goalkeeper – while he was caught offside on three occasions.

What's next?

Chelsea play Palmeiras on Saturday for the title after Al Hilal are in action in a third-place play-off against Al Ahly.

Chelsea coach Zsolt Low is confident his side can cope without Thomas Tuchel on the sidelines for Wednesday's Club World Cup semi-final against Al Hilal.

Tuchel missed Saturday's FA Cup fourth-round win against Plymouth Argyle after testing positive for coronavirus and was also unable to fly out to Abu Dhabi.

The German will definitely miss the clash with Asian champions Al Hilal, but he could return for a potential final against either Palmeiras or Al Ahly on Saturday.

Low and Arno Michels will continue to fill in and the former insists Chelsea's preparations have not been hampered too much as Tuchel is providing regular input from London.

"We are constantly in contact with Thomas. We're using video calling all the time," Low said at a pre-match news conference on Tuesday.

"We change our ideas a lot of times in the day. We have good conversation to make it like he is here with us together.

"Petr Cech supports us well when Thomas is not here. We have a good medical staff, team management. We have a lot of support. And a lot of video calls with Thomas. 

"He'll support us as best he can and give us every day preparation in meetings. In the next days there's the possibility to talk to the team."

 

Despite the four-hour time difference between London and the United Arab Emirates, Low says Tuchel is available at any time of the day.

"It's not necessary for him to change time zone. We have meetings with an alarm call," he said. "If we need him at 6am, we need him at 6am. 

"We are training in the afternoon so Thomas is already awake then anyway. In the hotel it's a bit easier for him to chat to the team because of the connection. 

"Maybe here in the dressing room can be more difficult. We all the time have phone contact also during the game so he can analyse and try to translate to the team.

"Phone calls and messages aren't Thomas' strongest part but he needs to be prepared and ready and be with us on the phone. He's been absolutely perfect in the last few days."

Tuchel is continuing to isolate, but if he returns a negative test by Thursday he will be in place for this weekend's final – assuming Chelsea first overcome Al Hilal.

"He'll follow the government rules, get tested every day and we hope the next will be negative so he can travel as fast as possible and enjoy the group and the team," Low said. 

"We hope but we have texts, phone calls, video calls and give him the feeling he's with us. We need his absolute support. In 24 hours he could be here."

Al Hilal beat Al Jazira 6-1 to set up a showdown with Chelsea, who are looking to add the Club World Cup to their collection following last year's Champions League triumph.

The Blues were beaten 1-0 by Corinthians in the final in their only participation in the tournament a decade ago, but they are favourites to go all the win this time around.

"We have to take that role after winning the Champions League," Low said. "We know we're a good team and play a good game but Al Hilal are very good.

"Leonardo Jardim is a very good coach and they have a very good team. We take the role as favourites but for sure it will be a difficult game tomorrow."

The Champions League winners have made the final of the Club World Cup at 16 of the previous 17 editions, with Manchester United in 2000 the only exception.

Chelsea have lost just one of their past 15 games in all competitions, meanwhile, with their only loss in that period coming against Premier League champions Manchester City.

The English heavyweights will be without Reece James against Al Hilal, despite the defender being included in their squad, while Mason Mount will undergo a late fitness test.

Edouard Mendy is also set to link up with the squad ahead of the match, despite featuring for Senegal in Sunday's Africa Cup of Nations final win against Egypt.

Al Hilal thumped hosts Al Jazira 6-1 on Sunday to book their place in the Club World Cup semi-finals against Chelsea.

2020-21 UAE Pro League champions Al Jazira opened the scoring through Abdoulay Diaby after 14 minutes, but goals from former Premier League forwards Odion Ighalo and Matheus Pereira put Al Hilal into the lead before the break.

That narrow lead was extended into an emphatic scoreline in the second half, as Mohamed Kanno, Salem Al-Dawsari, Moussa Marega and Andre Carrillo all found the back of the net.

Asian champions Al Hilal will face European counterparts Chelsea in the last four on February 9, while Al Jazira play Monterrey earlier that same day in the fifth-place play-off.

Al Jazira got the Club World Cup under way with a 4-1 win over Tahitian side Pirae in Abu Dhabi on Thursday.

Hosts Al Jazira, who qualified by virtue of winning the UAE Pro League in 2020-21, were unsurprisingly a cut above their opponents, racing into a 3-0 lead by half-time.

Pirae – nominated for participation by OFC – did get on the scoresheet early in the second half thanks to an own goal, but Al Jazira finished them off just past the hour through the well-travelled Abdoulay Diaby.

Al Jazira will face Saudi Arabia's Asian champions Al Hilal in the second round, and the winner of that contest shall play European champions Chelsea in the second semi-final on February 9.

Al Hilal lifted the AFC Champions League trophy for a record fourth time as Nasser Al-Dawsari's memorable first-minute strike set them on the way to a 2-0 win over Pohang Steelers.

At the King Fahd Stadium in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, left-back Al-Dawsari produced a spectacular opener, and a clinical finish after the break from Moussa Marega tied up the triumph.

The breakthrough came inside 17 seconds with a remarkable long-range strike from Al-Dawsari, who snatched the ball in midfield and drove forward before lashing into the top-left corner from 28 yards with his left boot.

There was almost an equally dazzling reply from Sin Jin-ho in the 12th minute when he rattled the bar from the edge of the penalty area, the fingertips of goalkeeper Abdullah Al-Mayoof preventing the ball dipping in.

The ball fell to Lim Sang-hyub, but again Al-Mayoof made the save, scrambling to block the close-range shot.

Matheus Pereira thrashed a free-kick over the bar as Al Hilal looked for a second goal, while Pohang's Go Young-joon sent a shot skidding wide at the other end.

It was Marega who made sure in the 63rd minute, taking a throughball from Bafetimbi Gomis in his stride and firing low across goal into the left corner.

Victory means Al Hilal are now the outright most successful team in competition history, edging ahead of Tuesday's opponents who came into the game also with three previous titles.

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