Al Rayyan will become the focal point of the football world on February 7 and 8 as it plays host to the semi-finals of the FIFA Club World Cup Qatar 2020™.
The last-four action gets under way on Sunday, with Palmeiras of Brazil taking on Mexico’s Tigres UANL.
European champions FC Bayern München and African Champions Al Ahly SC of Egypt will contest the second semi-final, to be played on Monday.
Palmeiras and Tigres are both newcomers to the competition and have never played each other before.
Despite their recent Copa Libertadores triumph, the Brazilian side have been struggling in their domestic league of late, having drawn their last two matches and lost the two before that.
That winless run has left O Verdão sixth in the table and they will be hoping to turn their form around fast in Qatar and secure a place in next Thursday’s Club World Cup final.
Their Mexican opponents beat Ulsan Hyundai in their opening match of the tournament and are banking on the goalscoring prowess of Andre-Pierre Gignac. The French front man scored both his side’s goals in that match and is in excellent form.
European champions Bayern will go into their semi-final meeting with Al Ahly without the services of Leon Goretzka and Javi Martinez, who both have contracted COVID-19, and goalkeeper Alexander Nuebel, who is out with an injured ankle.
As for Al Ahly, they are plotting an unlikely upset after beating Al Duhail in the previous round.
Coach Pitso Mosimane will be looking to Mohamed Magdy, better known as Afsha, to fire his team’s challenge. Player and coach have been talking extensively in training this week.
What they said:
“We know Al Ahly. They won the African Champions League so we’re aware that it won’t be easy, just as it wasn’t in 2013. It’s hard to play teams you don’t know much about.” Bayern Munich goalkeeper Manuel Neuer
“Bayern are a big side with a lot of stars. I’d like to play against [Thomas] Muller. I like him as a player and I like his style of play.” Al Ahly forward Hussein El Shahat
“We know what Palmeiras represent and that they’re Libertadores champions, which I know all about, being a Brazilian. We’ll confront them like we did Ulsan. With respect; no more, no less.” Ricardo Ferretti, Tigres coach
“This is a very important tournament for all Palmeiras fans and we are looking forward to testing ourselves against some of the leading teams in the world.” Palmeiras coach Abel Ferreira
Three – The number of times Bayern and Al Ahly have played each other, all in friendlies.
The first of those meetings came in 1977, when the Egyptian side won 2-1 courtesy of goals from Mahmoud El Khatib and Sherif Abdel Moneim.
The German giants gained revenge in the second of the two encounters, played in Cairo, winning 2-1 thanks to goals by Dieter Hoeness and Lothar Matthaus, with Samir Fawzi on target for Al Ahly.
Bayern won by the same scoreline in the third game in 2012, in Doha. Their goals came from an Ahmed El Sayed own goal and Mario Mandzukic, while Mohamed Barakat was on the scoresheet for Al Ahly.
Did you know?
Brazilian clubs dominated the Club World Cup in its early years, winning the trophy in 2000, 2005 and 2006.
Europe’s representatives have held sway since then, however, with Corinthians the only South American side since then to win the trophy, beating Chelsea in the 2012 final.
Santos went down to Barcelona in the 2011 final, while Flamengo lost to Liverpool in the 2019 showpiece match.
Match for fifth place:
Ulsan Hyundai – Al Duhail, Sunday, Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium
Palmeiras – Tigres UANL, Sunday, Education City Stadium
Bayern Munich – Al Ahly, Monday, Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium