The FIFA Club World Cup 2019 represents a chance for European champions to play the champions from five other continents. Due to their coefficients, European and South American champions enter the competition at the semi-final stage, while the other four teams enter it earlier. On Wednesday evening, one of the top seeds, Liverpool will take on the CONCACAF Champions Monterrey in the 2nd semi-final of the competition, with Flamengo from Brazil taking on Al Hilal from Saudi Arabia.
Monterrey come into Wednesday’s game in great form, having won five out of the last six games and having made it to the Liga MX Apertura final. They finished eighth in the regular season to make it to the liguilla or the play-offs. In the play-offs they beat Santos Laguna (6-3) on aggregate. Santos Laguna had finished the regular season at the top of the table. Similarly they also beat Necaxa 3-1 on aggregate to go into the finals, which they will play on December 27. In the Club World Cup as well, they beat Al Sadd from Qatar, managed by Xavi, by 3-2 to set up this tie with Liverpool. On current form, it is likely that the Los Rayados will cause problems for Liverpool.
While their opponents are one game away from winning the Mexican domestic league title (one of two available), Liverpool are yet to play 21 league games before the end of the season. Yet with a 10-point lead over the next best team in English Premier League, Liverpool will fancy their chances domestically. But before that, they will have an opportunity to add some silverware to the Anfield trophy cabinet. The Reds come into this game having beaten Watford by 2-0 through a Mohamed Salah brace. Having won 49 points out of a potential 51, it is fair to say that Liverpool are, at the moment, one of the toughest opponents any club can face. But Jurgen Klopp is not banking on such laurels. He has taken his first squad to Qatar for the two games, while he has delegated the Carabao Cup quarterfinal (also to be played on Wednesday) to the youth squad.
- Just like Liverpool, Monterrey have reached the FIFA Club World Cup having defeated a team from their own league. They beat Tigres 2-1 over two legs to win the CONCACAF Champions League.
- It was their fourth win in the competition, having won the continental trophy thrice in a row between 2011 and 2013.
- Liverpool have played two games in the FIFA Club World Cup winning 0-3 against Deportivo Saprissa from Costa Rica at the same stage (semifinals) in 2005, before losing 1-0 to Sao Paulo in the final.
- Chelsea beat Monterrey at the same stage in 2012 by a score of 1-3 before losing to Corinthians in the final.
- Liverpool have managed 3 clean sheets in their last three games, the same number of clean sheets that they managed in the previous 19 games.
Rogelio Funes Mori
Although Monterrey have in their ranks Vincent Janssen, their only player to have played in England (for Spurs), the Mexican club will depend even more on Funes Mori who leads their line as the lone striker up front. Mori has scored 7 goals in last five appearances in Liga MX, having scored a goal every 49 minutes. Overall, in the Liga MX Apertura, Mori has made 19 appearances, played 1584 minutes and has scored 11 goals and assisted one goal. An xG per 90 minutes of 0.49 represents a good striker who can hurt Liverpool if in form.
Just before the game against Watford on Saturday, Sadio Mane was crowned the Premier League Player of the Month for November. While not as prolific recently as Mori, Mane has scored three goals and assisted four in the last seven games in all competitions for Liverpool. At present he is averaging a goal contribution every 112 minutes. An xG per 90 of 0.43 is fairly respectable, especially as he is surrounded by goal scorers in this Liverpool team.
For Monterrey, Aviles Hurtado is ruled out. Jonathan Gonzalez is in competition with Celso Ortiz for a starting spot in the central midfield. Vincent Janssen was not in the matchday squad for Monterrey’s second round win over Al-Sadd and might again be benched in favour of Mori.
For Liverpool, Georginio Wijnaldum and Virgil van Dijk missed training with the squad on Monday and are considered doubts for Jurgen Klopp’s side. However, the latter has more of a chance to play. Matip, Lovren, Fabinho and Clyne remain out injured. However, the likes of Divock Origi, Adam Lallana and Xherdan Shaqiri will hope to make the most of any minutes afforded to them during Liverpool’s time in Qatar.
If Jurgen Klopp was going to treat the Club World Cup as a couple of friendlies in a warmer climate, then it would have been possible for Liverpool to slip up a bit. However, the German has signaled his intent to win the competition by picking his entire senior squad for the trip to Qatar. Liverpool’s first team should be able to get past Monterrey to reach the final on Saturday.
Monterrey 0 – 2 Liverpool