Fifa Club World Cup UAE: Al Hilal keyed up for Chelsea semifinal

Trio: Chelsea players (from left) Hakim Ziyech, Ross Barkley and Romelu Lukaku during a training session in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday. — AP
Trio: Chelsea players (from left) Hakim Ziyech, Ross Barkley and Romelu Lukaku during a training session in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday. — AP

Abu Dhabi - Abu Dhabi heavyweights Al Jazira meet Mexico's Monterrey for fifth place


Ashwani Kumar

Published: Tue 8 Feb 2022, 7:41 PM

Last updated: Tue 8 Feb 2022, 7:43 PM

Riyadh-based Asian champions Al Hilal will push the limits to pull off an upset win against European giants Chelsea in the semis of the Fifa Club World Cup UAE 2021 on Wednesday.

Al Hilal coach Leonardo Jardim termed the Uefa champions, who landed on Sunday while his boys played their opening match, as the firm “favourites” but said his team possess the talent to win.

“We are going to play against the favourite club, and as has been the case every year, i.e., the European club. But Al Hilal have lots of ambition. It’s a club that wants to win. We will do our utmost in the field to go against them with the attitude and talent of our players,” Jardim told reporters.

Al Hilal beat Al Jazira 6-1 on Sunday. And the Portuguese coach said he will have a different strategy against a well-rested Chelsea as compared to Al Jazira, who had played their second match in four days.

“This opponent (Chelsea) will present many problems for us, which Al Jazira didn’t pose, and we have to pay some attention to it. But we want to play our game, create different opportunities. When we have the ball, we will attack. We will try to organise ourselves in such a manner to score a goal and enter the final.”

Jardim said the format offers an “unfair” advantage to teams from Europe and South America, who straightway enter the semis without playing any round matches.

“I believe it’s unfair that some teams have to play four matches in eight days and other teams, are the best, and play only two matches. These teams are well rested.”

Jardim acknowledged Al Hilal’s situation mirrored Al Jazira, who took the field for a second time in four days. “I think if Al Jazira were rested, the match would have been different, especially in the second half.”

Al Jazira, after leading by a goal, went on to lose the match 1-6, with three goals being conceded in the final 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, Chelsea’s assistant coach Zsolt Low, stepping in for Covid-19 positive Thomas Tuchel, said Al Hilal are an attacking side and it would be a tough encounter.

“Al Hilal are a very good team. We know a lot of their players. We have met their players in different situations. They have good quality in the front. They can score a lot of goals. We expect a difficult game.”

Low pointed out that Chelsea are in the tournament after a FA Cup match and a long travel, and don’t have any advantage over Al Hilal.

“We have slowly prepared for the game. With the FA Cup game and a four-hour time difference, the players could not sleep well.”

Skipper Cesar Azpilicueta said that the players are motivated to win the only trophy missing in their cabinet. “I am really motivated. Losing (to Corinthians) in 2012 (final) hurts a lot. This is our opportunity to create history.”

Al Hilal play Chelsea in the semis at the Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium (8.30 pm) and in fifth-place match, Al Jazira take on Mexico’s Monterrey at the Al Nahyan Stadium (5.30 pm).

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