Stade Moulay Abdallah in Rabat is the venue as Real Madrid and Al-Hilal go head-to-head in the 2023 FIFA Club World Cup showpiece on Saturday evening.
Despite lacking a few crucial first-team components in Karim Benzema, Eder Militao and Thibaut Courtois, Los Merengues trounced CAF Champions League holders Al Ahly 4-1 in their semi-final tie.
After missing out on the Supercopa de Espana title in January, the defending La Liga champions will be out to rectify past mistakes and take home a record-extending fifth Club World Cup trophy.
It’s been a tumultuous start to the new calendar year for Carlo Ancelotti’s side, as they’ve fallen eight points behind league pacesetters Barcelona, who also crashed them out of the Supercopa de Espana title decider.
However, Madrid have mastered Club World Cup duties, winning all four of their trophies between 2014 and 2018, including their first under current boss Ancelotti nine years ago.
Of all teams to have appeared at this tournament, Al-Hilal are perhaps the only side strong enough to hinder Los Merengues’ title appetites in their maiden grand final outing.
Inspired by their trustworthy talisman Salem Al Dawsari, Ramon Diaz’s men dispatched South American heavyweights Flamengo 3-2 in the semi-finals to set up this tie.
The 31-year-old Saudi Arabia international, who gained broad attention at the 2022 World Cup by taking down Argentina, scored twice in the first half to lay the foundation for Al-Hilal’s historic triumph.
Not only do Madrid boast a 100% win ratio in the Club World Cup finals, but three of their four triumphs in this fixture came in regulation time, underpinning their status as odds-on pre-match favourites.
As revealed by Ancelotti in the build-up, Benzema and Militao have yet to recover from their respective injury setbacks, which could pose a threat to Madrid’s remarkable +8 goal difference in the Club World Cup final.
But a distinguished journeyman as he is, the Italian manager has proved as a ‘Club World Cup specialist,’ winning this competition with Madrid and AC Milan.
After becoming the first AFC representative to reach the final since Al Ain in 2018, Al-Hilal will be looking to raise the bar and become the first Asian club to claim the trophy.
Currently embroiled in a top-five logjam with Cristiano Ronaldo’s Al Nassr in the Saudi Pro League, the Blue Waves may not relish the timing of this fixture.
Yet the tournament’s prestige and prize money are enough incentive for a side having lost just one out of 11 post-World Cup matches in all competitions (W7, D3).
Real Madrid vs Al-Hilal Potential Line-ups
Real Madrid (4-3-3): Andriy Lunin; Dani Carvajal, Nacho Fernandez, Antonio Rudiger, David Alaba; Toni Kroos, Aurelien Tchouameni, Luka Modric; Federico Valverde, Rodrygo, Vinicius Junior.
Al-Hilal (4-2-3-1): Abdullah Al-Mayouf; Saud Abdulhamid, Jang Hyun-soo, Al-Bulaihi, Nasser Al-Dawsari; Mohammed Kanno, Gustavo Cuellar; Moussa Marega, Luciano Vietto, Salem Al-Dawsari; Odion Ighalo.
How to Watch?
Real Madrid vs Al-Hilal, alongside all other Los Blancos’ fixtures, is available to watch online via live Real Madrid streaming.
Real Madrid vs Al-Hilal Prediction
Madrid’s experience in high-octane, title-deciding fixtures could be a significant factor in this match-up, even without the intimidating presence of Benzema.
However, Al-Hilal have a host of former European stars in their ranks that could sway things in the other direction, threatening to make this game much sterner than expected.
While we still back Los Merengues to add to their glittering trophy cabinet, it’s hard to see the Saudi outfit going down without a fight.
Real Madrid 2-1 Al-Hilal
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