Liverpool and Flamengo will clash in the FIFA Club World Cup Qatar final at the Khalifa International Stadium Saturday, with both the clubs carrying different weight of expectations. The competition is seen as a showpiece event in Brazil, with many Flamengo fans having made a long journey to Doha in the hope of watching their team winning the title. The match begins at 8.30pm.
For Liverpool, the opportunity to win a Club World Cup title has come in the middle of a dream season. They won the Champions League earlier this year – which sealed their ticket to Qatar – and are now on course for a first English Premier League title since 1989-90, having taken a 10-point lead at the top. Hence, the Anfield faithful hasn’t taken kindly to a Liverpool team making a week-long trip for a competition they see as less important.
Saturday’s final against Flamengo will be their ninth game of a packed December schedule for the Reds, with them also having to field a team of teenagers in their heavy 0-5 defeat to Aston Villa last Tuesday – for which they had to face criticism back home.
For Jurgen Klopp and his men though, the Club World Cup is a chance to prove they are the best club in the world, a tag which has been bestowed by them by many in recent times. There is also the small matter of revenge for Liverpool, as they had suffered a 0-3 loss to Flamengo when the last time the two clubs faced each other in the 1981 Intercontinental Cup final, a precursor to the current tournament. They will also be gunning for their first world title, having lost to Brazilian side Sao Paulo 0-1 in the final in 2005 in Yokohama, Japan.
There is a lot riding for Liverpool and Flamengo; while Klopp admitted the ‘situation is different’ for both the clubs, he hopes he can chance the perception of European clubs, including his own, towards the tournament.
“Look, it is not an advantage or a disadvantage or whatever, but this situation is different for Flamengo and for us. Flamengo got sent here from their continent with a clear order to win it and to come back as heroes. We got told, 'Stay at home and play the League Cup'. That's a massive difference. We cannot change that,” the German manager said Friday.
“But we are here and we want to win the competition, even when we know it is very difficult because the other team is really, really good, but that's how it is with the big competitions. I think the view on it in Europe is completely different to the view in the rest of the world. But I like pretty much to change that view a little bit in the moment, it changed for me since we are here. Will that change the view of people in Europe? Probably not,” Klopp added.
For Liverpool, to walk away with their maiden world title Saturday, they will have to put on a much better performance than they did against Monterrey in the semi-finals on Wednesday. The European champions needed Roberto Firmino to score a dramatic injury-time winner to beat the Mexican side.
While Klopp fielded a starting XI made up of bench strength – with the exception of Egyptian star Mohamed Salah – against Monterrey, he is mostly likely to go in with regular starters against Flamengo. That means Sadio Mane, Firmino and Trent Alexander-Arnold are set to return, while Klopp also raised hopes of influential defender Virgil van Dijk and midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum coming back to the team. Van Dijk was forced to sit out of the semi-final due to illness, while Wijnaldum was sidelined with the muscle injury.
Klopp said he knows what to expect of Flamengo, who themselves are enjoying their best season. Last month, the Brazilian club secured a dramatic Copa Libertadores victory over rivals River Plate and came from behind to beat Saudi Arabia's Al Hilal 3-1 in Tuesday’s semis.
"I know what we have to expect," Klopp said. “Flamengo will be intense, organised, (coach) Jorge Jesus has changed their fortunes and most of their things. They have different ways of playing and they have real quality in the centre of the park, they are cheeky on the wings and they can shoot from distance - just like a successful team should be. This is the first time that I have faced a Brazilian team but this is also the first time Flamengo have played a team like Liverpool," he added.
Meanwhile, Flamengo's coach Jorge Jesus was confident his side can bridge the financial gulf between the two clubs. "We cannot compare between two good teams easily. Yes, Liverpool has a distinct history in recent years: they have won many titles and they are one of the best clubs in the world," the Portuguese said.
"Jurgen Klopp has been with the team for many years and accomplished a lot with them, not only in the English League but Champions League. Liverpool have left their mark on world football. We know Flamengo are enjoying an excellent season, so there are similarities. We can say Liverpool and Flamengo may be at the best levels in their history.”
Qatari referees for final
FIFA announced Friday that the Club World Cup final between Flamengo and Liverpool at Khalifa International Stadium in Doha will be officiated by Qatari referees.
Abdulrahman al-Jassim will be in charge, assisted by Taleb Salem and Saoud Ahmed. Algeria's Moustafa Gharbal will be the fourth referee.
Liverpool reached the final after edging past Mexico's Monterrey 2-1, while Flamengo defeated Asian champions Al Hilal 3-1 on their way to meet Liverpool.