Liverpool set to face Flamengo in highly-anticipated Club World
European teams are not always known to take the Club World Cup seriously. There is a belief in many circles that the competition is just a glorified friendly.
The contrast couldn’t be starker in South America, where teams compete with pride and view it as an opportunity to teach their European counterparts a lesson.
The Liverpool players and fans might beg to differ. They have not only given the competition the respect it deserves but also sacrificed the League Cup in order to focus on this competition.
Liverpool have won 42 major trophies in their illustrious history but are yet to bag a Club World Cup or Intercontinental Cup as it was known.
If that wasn’t motivation enough, Liverpool will be facing Brazilian side Flamengo, who taught the Reds a footballing lesson when they last met in the Intercontinental Cup in 1981. Liverpool lost 3-0 that day.
That victory has been immortalized into a song ‘Em Dezembro de 81’, which is still sung by Flamengo supporters to this day.
The Merseysiders are the favourites going into the match and as long as they turn up in the finals, they will be expected to overcome the Copa Libertadores Champions.
The Reds will be buoyed by the news of Virgil van Dijk returning to training after missing the semi-finals against Monterrey due to illness. His international teammate Gini Wijnaldum looks likely to miss out once again after failing to recover from his injury.
Liverpool are still without Joel Matip, Dejan Lovren and Fabinho, all of whom are sidelined until the new year.
Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Trent Alexander-Arnold are expected to start this game after being rested for the majority of the semifinals.
Flamengo have no injury concerns to worry about and go into the final with a full-strength squad.
Alisson Becker, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Joe Gomez, Virgil van Dijk, Andrew Robertson, Jordan Henderson, Naby Keita, James Milner, Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino, Mohamed Salah
Diego Alves, Rafinha, Rodrigo Caio, Pablo Mari, Felipe Luis, Willian Arao, Éverton Ribeiro, Gerson, Giorgian De Arrascaeta, Bruno Henrique, Gabriel Barbosa
Sadio Mane vs Rafinha
Senegalese winger Sadio Mane has been in stellar form for Liverpool, scoring 13 and assisting 6 in 24 appearances this season. Veteran right-back Rafinha will find his hands full in trying to stop him and match Mane’s pace.
The Liverpool winger has stepped up for the Reds and if he gets the better of Rafinha, it could also open up space for Robertson with the left flank turning into an outlet of chances for the Merseysiders.
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Éverton Ribeiro vs Andrew Robertson
Winning control over the left flank would be the key to controlling the tie for Liverpool. With Rafinha having to face Sadio Mane, Everton may have to track back which will give Robertson more space to move into.
By dominating the left flank, Liverpool may draw Giorgian De Arrascaeta to the left. This would nullify his effect in the centre of the pitch, cutting off service to Gabigol.
The lack of service, coupled with having to contend with Van Dijk, could nullify the Flamengo attack immensely.