Real Madrid faces Gremio on Saturday in hope to defend their Club World Cup title this week in a bid to revive their season. The European champions entered the competition at the semi-final stage on Wednesday when they played the United Arab Emirates Pro-League champions, Al Jazira, who eliminated New Zealand’s Auckland City in the play-off round and followed up with a win over Japan’s Urawa Red Diamonds, the Asian Champions, in the quarter-final.
At Madrid, Zinedine Zidane is under severe pressure. Real are fourth in La Liga after 15 games, eight points adrift of rivals and leaders Barcelona. Before Christmas Madrid welcome their arch-rivals for a crucial El Clásico. In the Champions League, the defending champions were drawn with Paris Saint-Germain, pitting the might and myth of the Galacticos against Qatari influence in the French capital.
The pressure is relentless for Zidane, even in a calendar year when Los Blancos have already claimed La Liga, the Champions League, the UEFA Super Cup and the Supercopa de Espana, and Zidane is keen on adding another trophy to the cabinet. There is no sign he is taking the competition lightly and named a full-strength squad for the trip to the United Arab Emirates.
“It will not be easy and last year we had a lot of problems before we managed to win it,” said Zidane.
“There will not be easy games and for just being Real Madrid we are not going to win. We have time to prepare for the game and there are no excuses. This is the calendar and whoever we face we need to look at doing what we have to do well.”
Madrid had a tough time eliminating their opponents, Al Jazira went ahead at 41 minutes courtesy of a Romarinho goal when Casemeiro was caught sleeping deep inside the Madrid half of the pitch, allowing Boussoufa to pick his pocket before setting up Romarinho. The Brazilian broke into the box got the better of 19 years old Real Madrid right-back Achraf Hakimi, who allowed the striker to side-foot a lovely shot past Keylor Navas and into the bottom left corner of the net. Real Madrid had a goal over-ruled by the VAR at the 32nd minute when Casemeiro’s header past the goal-keeper was not given because of an offside committed by Real striker Karim Benzema. Madrid had a whopping 17 shots on target at half-time still couldn’t manage to get a goal. However, they managed to find their first break-through when a Luka Modric through ball found it’s way to Cristiano Ronaldo who managed to put the ball into the bottom left-hand corner of the net with a low shot. The ball from Modric was perfect, splitting the Al Jazira defence into two and then picking out Ronaldo.
The final goal came when Benzema was substituted by Bale at the 81st minute and the Welsh super-star managed to score just after a minute of coming onto the pitch. The Welshman immediately got into action after linking up with Vazquez brilliantly and then fired a well-placed shot past the keeper to give Madrid the lead. Madrid are into the final of the Club WC for the second year in a row but they will be hoping for an improved performance against Gremio. They certainly weren’t at their best against Al Jazira and that has surely left Zidane concerned after they showed signs of being back after that comfortable win against Sevilla.
Gremio have not achieved anything yet as they set sights on winning a first Fifa Club World Cup, according to manager Renato Portaluppi. The Brazilian side, making their debut in the tournament, defeated Mexico’s Pachuca 1-0 in extra-time of their last-four clash at the Hazza bin Zayed Stadium on Tuesday night. Substitute Everton scored the winner in the 95th minute. As the recently crowned Copa Libertadores champions, Gremio were the last team to confirm their place in the UAE. They will now contest Saturday’s final at the Zayed Sports City stadium, where they will face Real Madrid. Pachuca was reduced to 10 men in extra time as Victor Guzman saw red. And Gremio made them pay as Everton fired home to send the Brazilian side into the final. It was a fiercely contested fixture which lacked quality in the final third for much of the game, ultimately resulting in proceedings going to an extra 30 minutes, but ultimately a sublime solo goal made the difference. Chances were at a premium in the first half, as both sides canceled each other out in a drab affair that even the highly sought-after Luan struggled to set alight. Things were a little more gripping in the second half, with both goalkeepers actually forced into meaningful saves within the first quarter-of-an-hour as the two teams upped the ante. Although neither side could find a way through during the regulation 90 minutes, a moment of brilliance from Gremio substitute Everton put the Brazilian giants ahead early on in extra-time.
Let’s hope for an entertaining match on Saturday as the two teams battle it out for the Club WC title.
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