Barcelona go into their FIFA Club World Cup Japan 2015 semi-final against Guangzhou Evergrande as favourites. However, the Asian champions proved in the last round against Club America that they are a force to be reckoned with and appear determined to scupper the Catalans’ best laid plans.
Barcelona-Guangzhou Evergrande, International Stadium Yokohama, Thursday 17 December, 19:30 (local time)
It has been a glittering 2015 for Barcelona, who have tasted glory in the UEFA Champions League, La Liga, the Copa del Rey and the UEFA Super Cup. Now Luis Enrique’s men are targeting adding a fifth trophy to their haul so as to end the year on a high. As if that were not enough motivation, Barça are bidding to become the first side to capture the Club World Cup three times, having previously prevailed in the competition in 2009 and 2011.
Before they can think seriously about the title, however, Lionel Messi and Co have to get past Guangzhou Evergrande. The Chinese giants have plenty of reasons to be optimistic ahead of this eagerly awaited showdown. For example, they will be buoyed by the resilience they displayed in the quarter-finals, when they came from behind to claim a 2-1 win courtesy of two goals in the last ten minutes. Meanwhile, their coach, Luiz Felipe Scolari, is returning to the scene of his greatest triumph, having guided Brazil to victory in the 2002 FIFA World Cup™ Final in none other than Yokohama.
5 – Guangzhou Evergrande have been utterly dominant in the Chinese Super League in recent years, scooping the last five titles (2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015). On the other hand, this is only the Southern China Tigers’ second appearance at the Club World Cup – they finished fourth on their tournament debut, at Morocco 2013.
“Today we’re only thinking of Guangzhou. We are aware of what we’ve done to reach this tournament and we’ve come here with the hope of winning the title. But first of all we have to recover from travelling and adjust to the time change. Then we have to beat Guangzhou before we can start dreaming of winning the tournament.
Sergio Busquets, Barcelona midfielder
“I hope that the way we beat Club America will encourage the players to dream a little. The Chinese can be too modest sometimes, but my team have earned the right to take on Barcelona. Once again the aim we’ve set ourselves is to win. If we believe, we can do it.”
Luiz Felipe Scolari, Guangzhou Evergrande coach