The Club World Cup final will be played on Saturday, with the Champions League winners taking on the winners of the Copa Libertadores. It is a big event for FIFA and they will be pleased that Liverpool and Flamengo managed to qualify for the final. The Premier League team found it difficult against a threatening Monterrey side on Wednesday, requiring a late winner from Roberto Firmino. Meanwhile, their opposition had to come from behind to beat Al Hilal on Tuesday. The competition has featured a number of competitive matches, which have made for an entertaining spectacle in Qatar.
Liverpool will be determined to win their first major trophy of the season on Saturday. They have never won the competition before, having lost in the final to Sao Paulo in 2005. Although the Club World Cup isn’t as respected in Europe as it is elsewhere, Jurgen Klopp will want to build a winning mentality. This is a final and it is important that his team comes out on top. They will bring in more of their established first-team players on Saturday to ensure that a top performance is delivered. The disruption to their Premier League campaign has been unfortunate, but returning to Anfield with a trophy will have made it worthwhile.
Flamengo are not a traditional Brazilian team, in that there has been a big European influence on their recent success. Jorge Jesus is the coach and he is known for his spells in charge of Benfica and Sporting Lisbon in recent times. It is rare for a European coach to be given a chance in Brazil, but he may have opened the door for more movement across to South America in the future. They have an excellent team spirit, as shown in the final of the Copa Libertadores and the semi-final of this competition, twice coming from behind to win. This will be seen as a huge game and they will provide a difficult test for Liverpool.
Liverpool have become the first Premier League team to reach the final of this competition. In their previous attempt, they lost the final.
There have been four red cards in the last six matches featuring Flamengo. This included one shown to Al Hilal in the previous round.
Sadio Mane was rested for the semi-final against Monterrey, as Jurgen Klopp tries to keep players well rested for the busy Christmas period. However, he is likely to return to the starting eleven for the Club World Cup final. It can be argued that the Senegelese forward has been the Reds’ player of the season so far, due to his goals and overall influence. At the time of writing, he has contributed 11 goals and six assists across all competitions. He is threatening to have his best individual season to date and he is an early frontrunner for individual awards in the Premier League. It is in matches like Saturday that his reputation will grow on a global stage. This is a great opportunity for the attacker to make a statement in a big game and he will be in a great state to do so following his minor role on Wednesday. Mane provides threat and creativity to the forward line. Alongside Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah, he will be a danger on Saturday.
Gabriel Barbosa is the star of the current Flamengo team and this could be his final match for the Brazilian team, as his loan spell from Inter Milan comes to an end. They will be keen to sign him on a permanent basis, as he has been a talisman during the Copa Libertadores run. However, there will be interest from across the globe, as the former wonderkid begins to fulfil his undoubted potential. The Libertadores final against River Plate showed the two sides to the 23-year-old’s game as he scored twice and got sent off. His talent is clear, but his mentality and game management is still a cause for concern. As he one day hopes to play in the Premier League, this match will offer an opportunity to prove that he can be effective against a top English team. He is the main player to worry about for Liverpool.
It is expected that Virgil Van Dijk will return from illness to start for the Premier League leaders. Jordan Henderson is likely to be moved into a central role, while Gini Wijnaldum could feature. Roberto Firmino, Mane and Trent Alexander-Arnold are all likely starters on Saturday.
Flamengo are unlikely to make any changes to the team that won in the previous round. Gabriel Barbosa could be playing his final game for the club.
Liverpool have been winning games this season, but they haven’t always been convincing. Last weekend, they were fortunate to keep a clean sheet against an improved Watford team. Meanwhile, they could have lost to Monterrey on Wednesday, if the Mexican team were more clinical on the counter attack. Flamengo have shown an impressive blend of talent and desire in recent months. This should be a great spectacle with the clash of styles. Flamengo will provide a more aggressive test than Jurgen Klopp’s team are used to. The European champions should have enough quality to win the trophy, but it is far from a foregone conclusion and it could go past the ninety minutes.
Liverpool 2-1 Flamengo (AET)