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Barcelona v Guangzhou Evergrande
World Club Cup Semi-Final Preview
All-conquering Barcelona begin their quest to land the FIFA World Club crown at the semi-final stage on Thursday, as they take on China’s Guangzhou Evergrande.
BARCA LOOKING TO MAKE HISTORY
The Catalan giants are looking to make history by becoming the first club to win the World Club Cup three times since its current inception in 2005.Captain Andreas Iniesta has sounded the clarion call this week declaring that; “We’re demanding the best of ourselves,” and the current Champions League holders are a sure fire bet to lift the trophy on Sunday. First, they must overcome AFC Champions League holders Guangzhou Evergrande on Thursday at the Nissan Stadium in Yokohama in the second semi-final, for a chance to play River Plate in Sunday’s final. Last weekend, it was obvious where the clubs priorities lay as they let a two-goal lead slip against Deportivo La Coruna at the Camp Nou; it’s unlikely that Luis Enrique’s men will be so generous on Thursday. The coach himself is also looking for a personal milestone hoping to match his predecessor, Pep Guardiola in winning the Copa del Rey, Champions League, Spanish Super Cup, UEFA Super Cup and the FIFA Club World Cup in the same year.
SCOLARI NOT FAZED BY CATALAN CHALLENGE
Guangzhou Evergrande’slarger than life coach, “Big” Phil Scolari is not daunted by Thursday’s opponents having remained unbeaten since he took over the reins at the club in June. Having won the Chinese league and AFC Champions League, the former Brazilian national team coach declared that; “”We are growing day-by-day so we can dream of improving further. We still have a long way to go, but I have a great team at a great club and great players.” Midfielder Huang Bowen also praised his current boss stating that; “We have more balance between defence and attack under the new coach.” To get to this stage they disposed of Club America in the quarter-finals.The team have serious financial backing too, signing former Real Madrid World Club Cup -midfielder Robinho earlier this year on a six-month contract reportedly worth three million Euros. The Brazilian international however, will be more than aware of what he and his side will face in Yokohama on Thursday.
Brazilian superstar Neymar will miss Thursday’s semi-final as he continues his recovery from a groin strain, which may give another chance to 20-year-old Munir (currently quoted at *5.00 on the best football betting sites to be first goalscorer on Thursday) to shine in attack alongside two of the three tenors, Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi. It is likely that Enrique will go with the same side that drew 2-2 on Saturday against Deportivo La Coruna.
Guangzhou could also remain unchanged from their quarter-final victory over Club America with Robinho playing in a three man support team to lone striker and fellow countryman Elkeson, who is priced at *8.00 on the betting exchanges to be an anytime scorer.Defender Xiaoting Feng is only a yellow card away from missing the final should his side cause a major upset in Yokohama, but Scolari will want to utilise his experience so he should start the contest. Another player to look out for is former Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Paulinho, who should play the anchor role in the centre of the field.
PROBABLE STARTING XI’S
Barcelona (4-3-3) Bravo; Jordi Alba, Pique, Mascherano, Dani Alves; Iniesta, Busquets, Rakitic; Munir, Suarez, Messi
Guangzhou Evergrande (4-2-3-1) Li Shuai; Gao Lin, Young-Gwon Kim, Xiaoting Feng, Zhang Linpeng; Zheng Zhi, Paulinho; Robinho, Ricardo Goulart, Huang Bowen; Elkeson
HEAD TO HEAD
Once again, just like in Wednesday’s semi-final, this will be the first meeting between the two sides.
Barcelona 1.10 Draw 9.00 Guangzhou 21.00
*odds courtesy of Bet365
Steve Mitchell (@barafundler)