Liverpool‘s quest to win a first-ever Fifa Club World Cup begins when they face Mexican giants Monterrey on Wednesday.
The Reds sealed their sixth European crown back in June to reach this competition and have their eyes firmly on the prize, taking a full-strength squad to Qatar at the expense of their Carabao Cup clash with Aston Villa on Tuesday.
But if the Reds think they’ll have it easy against Monterrey, they could be sorely mistaken. Across two legs, Rayados knocked out the likes of then-MLS champions Atlanta United (3-1) and Sporting Kansas City (10-2) to reach the Concacaf Champions League final, where they beat fellow Mexican side Tigres 2-1 on aggregate.
As far as continental football goes in North America, you couldn’t ask for a harder route, so Monterrey are well-versed in the big occasion and have already dumped out Al-Sadd 3-2 to reach the semi-finals.
Will Liverpool exert their dominance as Club World Cup favourites or will the Reds let their guard down and crash out once again? Read on for our preview, predictions, team news and TV coverage information.
When is Monterrey vs Liverpool and where can I watch live?
Competition: Fifa Club World Cup
Venue: Khalifa International Stadium, Doha
Date: Wednesday, 18 December 2019
Kick-off: 5:30 PM (UK time)
TV coverage (UK): BBC Two
14 December 2019: Monterrey 3-2 Al-Sadd (Fifa Club World Cup)
08 December 2019: Club Necaxa 0-1 Monterrey (Liga MX)
05 December 2019: Monterrey 2-1 Club Necaxa (Liga MX)
02 December 2019: Santos Laguna 1-1 Monterrey (Liga MX)
29 November 2019: Monterrey 5-2 Santos Laguna (Liga MX)
14 December 2019: Liverpool 2-0 Watford (Premier League)
10 December 2019: Red Bull Salzburg 0-2 Liverpool (Uefa Champions League)
07 December 2019: Bournemouth 0-3 Liverpool (Premier League)
04 December 2019: Liverpool 5-2 Everton (Premier League)
30 November 2019: Liverpool 2-1 Brighton (Premier League)
Ones to watch
Monterrey: Rogelio Funes Mori
Twin brother of former Everton defender Ramiro, Rogelio Funes Mori has been one of the most feared strikers in North America since joining from Benfica in 2015 and is quickly approaching a century of goals for Rayados.
Far more than just a simple goal poacher, Funes Mori is excellent when dropping into space to link play, is lethal in the 18-yard box and equally capable of bending one in from distance.
The Liverpool defence will have to keep a constant check on his whereabouts on Wednesday.
Key stat: Funes Mori has scored seven goals in his last five games across all competitions.
Liverpool: Mohamed Salah
Mohamed Salah was once again the difference-maker for Liverpool at the weekend, scoring both goals as the Reds breezed past Watford 2-0.
The Egyptian has been as electric as ever this season, netting 13 times in 20 appearances so far and if he’s on top of his game in Qatar, Monterrey could seriously struggle to cope.
Key stat: Salah has been directly involved in five goals across his last three Liverpool appearances, scoring four and assisting one.</p>
Winger Aviles Hurtado has been out since September with an Achilles tendon rupture and isn’t expected back until May 2020.
Monterrey are expected to name the same starting XI which beat Al-Sadd in the previous round.
Predicted XI: Barovero; Medina, Montes, Sanchez, Vangioni; Rodriguez, Gonzalez; Pabon Pizarro, Gallardo; Funes Mori.
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Jurgen Klopp has taken his strongest Liverpool side to Qatar with him, leaving behind a squad of youngsters for their Carabao Cup clash with Aston Villa on Tuesday.
Dejan Lovren, Joel Matip, Fabinho and Nathanial Clyne all miss out through injury, but Georginio Wijnaldum has still travelled despite exiting early against Watford.
Curtis Jones and Neco Williams are two youngsters to have made the trip with the first team.
Predicted XI: Alisson; Williams, Gomez, Van Dijk, Robertson; Jones, Milner, Keita; Salah, Shaqiri, Firmino.
Liverpool will head into this one as heavy favourites but Monterrey are one of the strongest sides in North America and must not be taken lightly.
Wednesday’s clash will be far tougher than many expect but as long as Klopp has his players on their toes, the Reds should have enough to make it past their Mexican opposition.
Scoreline prediction: Monterrey 1-2 Liverpool