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Team news, key battles and more: A detailed preview ahead of Liverpool’s clash with Flamengo

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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.

Team News

Liverpool

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.

Virgil van Dijk has resumed training a day before the final

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

Flamengo have no injury concerns to worry about and go into the final with a full-strength squad.

Predicted XI

Liverpool

Alisson Becker, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Joe Gomez, Virgil van Dijk, Andrew Robertson, Jordan Henderson, Naby Keita, James Milner, Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino, Mohamed Salah

Flamengo

Diego Alves, Rafinha, Rodrigo Caio, Pablo Mari, Felipe Luis, Willian Arao, Éverton Ribeiro, Gerson, Giorgian De Arrascaeta, Bruno Henrique, Gabriel Barbosa

Key Battles

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.

Andrew Robertson

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.

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Liverpool plotting move to sign this Arsenal backroom staff member

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Gary O'Driscoll

Liverpool target Arsenal’s head of medical services – Gary O’Driscoll

Liverpool have identified Arsenal’s Gary O’Driscoll as the leading candidate to replace the outgoing Andrew Massey. (h/t Daily Mail)

Massey who is the current head of medical services at Liverpool will leave the club on March 1st to take up a position at FIFA.

Having been at the club for almost seven years, Massey has played a key role in the Reds being one of the fittest teams in the league.

O’Driscoll is widely recognized as being one of the best in his field and Arsenal are determined to keep him at the Emirates.

Gary O'Driscoll

Driscoll has been at Arsenal since 2009 and is one of the old guards who has survived various culls.

He has held lead positions with the British Lions and Ireland rugby team. He should now welcome the chance to work for the European and World Champions. (h/t Metro)

Hailing from Manchester, Driscoll could welcome a return to the North-West of England to Merseyside.

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Liverpool are an extremely well-run club both on and off the pitch. Driscoll should relish the ability to work with the Reds without having to worry about politics or unrest.

In Driscoll, Liverpool look to have found an excellent candidate to continue the work of Andrew Massey as the Reds prepare for life without the medical genius.

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Third Liverpool star shipped out on loan until the end of the season

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Isaac Christie-Davies

Isaac Christie-Davies joins Cercle Brugge until the end of the season

Liverpool striker Isaac Christie-Davies has joined Cercle Brugge on loan until the end of the season. (h/t Liverpoolfc)

Christie-Davies will now link-up with the Groen en Zwart at their winter training camp in Malta. He is the third Liverpool player to leave on loan this month following Herbie Kane and Rhian Brewster.

The 22-year-old joined Liverpool from Chelsea and made his debut last month in the Carabao Cup quarter-finals against Aston Villa.

Isaac Christie-Davies

Bernd Storck is the manager of Cercle Brugge, who gained promotion to Belgium’s top-flight last season.

The German coach was previously in charge of Royal Excel Mouscron, where Taiwo Awoniyi spent time on loan last season.

Cercle currently have 13 players on loan at the club. The Welshman’s versatility has seen him perform in midfield, on the wing and upfront for the Liverpool Under-23s this season. This could boost his chances of a starting berth.

Cercle are currently bottom of the Belgian top tier, seven points off their closest rivals Waasland-Beveren after taking just 11 from their opening 21 games.

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Cercle next play at home to Royal Antwerp on January 19 and should give Christie-Davies enough time to prepare for his possible debut.

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Liverpool striker returns from loan spell after scoring just 1 goal in 22 games

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liam millar

Liam Millar has been recalled by Liverpool from his loan at Kilmarnock

Liverpool youngster Liam Millar has returned to the club after cutting short his loan at Kilmarnock. (h/t Liverpoolfc)

The 20-year-old striker, who joined from Fulham in 2016, is yet to make his debut for the Merseysiders.

Millar signed a long-term first-team contract with Liverpool in January 2019 and joined Scottish Premiership side Kilmarnock on loan until the end of the 2018–19 season.

Liam Millar

He made his debut for Kilmarnock in a 2–1 loss to Hearts and scored his first goal a month later against St Mirren.

He returned on loan to Kilmarnock in August 2019 on a year-long loan which has now been cut short by the Reds.

The striker made 22 appearances for Kilmarnock this season, scoring just 1 goal. (h/t Whoscored)

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A versatile forward, Millar is capable of playing both upfront and on the left flank with equal proficiency.

Liverpool had also recalled Nathaniel Phillips from his loan at VfB Stuttgart to address the lack of cover at centre-back due to injuries.

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