The 2021 Club World Cup will be decided in the United Arab Emirates this weekend, Chelsea and Palmeiras will battle for the prize with Al Ahly and Al Hilal battling for bronze.
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Happy at both ends
Chelsea entered the Club World Cup as favourites, but their status as Europe’s leading side hasn’t exactly served them well in the past. In the 2012 edition of the CWC — after winning the Champions League that year at the expense of Bayern Munich — they lost in the final, which was staged in Japan, to Corinthians 1-0.
Thomas Tuchel’s track record in finals for Chelsea so far stands at one triumph (the Champions League) and one defeat (the FA Cup), though of course it’s wasn’t a guarantee that the Blues will make the showpiece in Abu Dhabi, but they did, edging out AFC Champions League winners Al Hilal in the semis to eventually meet Copa Libertadores champions Palmeiras in the final.
Starting between the sticks against Al Hilal was the much-maligned Kepa Arrizabalaga, who a few days prior starred in Chelsea’s FA Cup 4th round win over Plymouth, the Spaniard featured as Edouard Mendy was playing a critical part in Senegal’s successful Africa Cup of Nations campaign. Once the celebrations died down, Mendy flew straight to the UAE, with all eyes now on who starts in goal and as far as Blues assistant boss Zsolt Low is concerned, it’s a good problem to have.
“We’re very happy with both goalkeepers. It’s a comfortable situation to have both goalkeepers like this. Now Edou is back, he is fresh, we have to make the decision tonight. We talked to Thomas about it,” he told reporters on the eve of the final.
“Final decision will be some hours before the game but if we decide for one or the other the one on the bench has nothing to be worried or sad about. Both goalkeepers had a big performance last week. This is why it’s a question just for this game. Tonight or latest tomorrow.”
Elsewhere there’s content with their attacking options. Romelu Lukaku, who has often seen criticism come his way following his return from Inter Milan, scored the only goal in the semi-finals. Asked if he was content with the Belgian’s performance, Low was adamant in his response.
“For Romelu we’re very happy he scored,” he replied. “For a striker, his confidence, it’s very important to score. Especially the two – Kai [Havertz] and Romelu work very well. It was important for Kai to create this goal. It helps the player’s confidence for sure. It’s important.”
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Club World Cup fixtures and results
All times UK
- Palmeiras 2-0 Al Ahly, February 8
- Al Hilal 0-1 Chelsea, February 9
- Monterrey 3-1 Al Jazira, February 9
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- Al Hilal vs Al Ahly, February 12 (1pm)
- Chelsea vs Palmeiras, February 12 (4.30pm)
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