Real Madrid starts as a great favorite to get a third consecutive title in the Club World Cup, this Saturday in Abu Dhabi (16h30 GMT), in an unexpected final before the revelation of the tournament, the host Al Ain emirati [Sigue en directo la final del Mundial de Clubes Real Madrid-Al Ain].
On paper, the Spanish team has everything in its power to lift the trophy, which would be the fourth of its history with the current format and the seventh if its three Intercontinental Cups are taken into account, the competition that is the direct antecedent of the Club World Cup.
Although many thought of a stellar final Real Madrid-River Plate, the Argentine team, which crowned champion of the Copa Libertadores on December 9, slipped in the semifinals and fell in the penalty shootout against Al Ain.
"This has been democratized, all the continents participate, I like that version better than the old and beloved Intercontinental, one expected River to pass, but you can not talk about surprises, because they are results that have already occurred in other editions. This is much more competitive than people can expect"Real Madrid coach, Argentine Santiago Solari, estimated at a press conference on Friday.
He won the Intercontinental Cup in 2002 when he played for Real Madrid, although he lost two more, in 1996 when he was part of the River delegation and in 2000, already in Real Madrid. With the Club World format, he was a semifinalist in the 2009 edition, where the team where he played, the Mexican Atlante, fell in the semifinals against Barcelona.
In case of winning the title, Real Madrid would close a convulsive year 2018, marked by its thirteenth title of European champion and the departures of coach Zinedine Zidane and Cristiano Ronaldo, and would gain confidence after the irregularity of the last weeks, that even took the supporters of the Santiago Bernabéu to boo their own.
Records in sight
Offensive midfielder will not be in the final Marco Asensio, that in the semifinal of Wednesday before the Kashima Antlers (3-1) relapsed of his muscular injury in the right thigh.
With whom you can tell Solari is with Gareth Bale, lethal on Wednesday against the Nipponese with a treble and that accumulates six so many in all his participations in the Club World Cups, which is just one of the record of Cristiano Ronaldo (7).
Another that can set a new record is the German Toni Kroos, who in the case that Real Madrid is champion would raise to five his number of titles in the Club World Cup, breaking the equality to four he has with Cristiano Ronaldo on top of the palmares.
"We prepared the game with the utmost humility and the utmost respect, everybody gave River a favorite because of its status and history, but in football you do not win anyone with the shield," said captain Sergio Ramos on Friday.
In front of them will be an Al Ain that is before the most prestigious match in its history.
It is the most successful club in the United Arab Emirates and has already surpassed the semi-finals reached in this competition by his compatriot Al Jazira last year.
It will be the fourth time that a team from outside Europe or South America plays the Club World Cup final, after the TP Mazembe of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (2010), the Moroccan Raja Casablanca (2013) and the Japanese Kashima Antlers (2016) .
In all of them, these teams then fell in the final against European teams, so Al Ain has the challenge of making history.
"We are almost like a Smart and a Mercedes, but sometimes a Smart can win a Mercedes," Croatian Emirati coach Zoran Mamic said on Friday, making an analogy with a car race.