King Abdullah Sports City sets the stage for the FIFA Club World Cup 2023 final as Manchester City and Fluminense go head-to-head for the title on Friday.
Well-positioned to maintain a rich tradition of UEFA clubs winning the annual tournament pitting continental champions against each other, Man City humbled Urawa Red Diamonds 3-0 in the semi-finals.
Pep Guardiola’s side needed Marius Hoibraaten’s sloppy own goal late in the first half to break down the Japanese team’s stubborn backline before Mateo Kovacic and Bernardo Silva capped off an emphatic win.
City’s first clean sheet in nine competitive outings put them on the brink of a fifth piece of silverware in 2023, with Guardiola looking to become the first-ever manager to win the Club World Cup title for the fourth time.
After leading Barcelona and Bayern Munich to glory, the Spaniard is in the driver’s seat to replicate those successes with Man City and round off a memorable calendar year.
Fluminense can throw a spanner in the works, with Fernando Diniz being the only man standing between Guardiola and another flattering award to add to his burgeoning trophy cabinet.
While Diniz’s interim charge of five-time world champions Brazil has been a disaster, he entered the Tricolor folklore last month, inspiring the oldest Rio de Janeiro club to their first Copa Libertadores title.
Like Man City, who won their first-ever Champions League title last term courtesy of a 1-0 win against Inter Milan in the Istanbul showpiece, Flu’s 2-1 triumph over Boca Juniors at the Maracana Stadium propelled them to an unprecedented success.
More than bragging rights is at stake as Man City search for a place in the history books, looking to become the first English side to simultaneously hold the Premier League, Champions League, UEFA Super Cup and Club World Cup titles.
Aware of the legacy he’s on the verge of creating, Guardiola branded the upcoming showdown as a ‘once in-our-lifetime’ fixture in the build-up via the club’s official website.
While the odds heavily favour the Cityzens to climb to the podium on Friday, the European heavyweights can’t take anything for granted, given their underwhelming league form (W1, D4, L1).
Even without Erling Braut Haaland to lead the line, Man City should still get on the board effortlessly after netting at least two goals in four consecutive matches leading to the final.
Despite coming into the tournament on the back foot – losing back-to-back games towards the end of the last Brasileirao campaign – Fluminense ousted Egyptian powerhouse Al-Ahly 2-0 in the semi-finals.
Second-half goals from Jhon Arias and John Kennedy fired the Brazilians to a landslide victory in Jeddah, handing them a unique opportunity to add the Club World Cup title to their trophy haul.
Seeking a fourth title in 2023, the Tricolor bid to become the fourth Brazilian club to conquer the competition after Sao Paolo, Internacional and Corinthians.
A decent-looking run of four wins in six competitive games does make for good reading (L2), but Fluminense would still have to upset the apple cart to return home as winners.
In addition to Haaland, Man City will be without Kevin De Bruyne and Jeremy Doku. Guardiola will probably rely on Phil Foden and Julian Alvarez to deliver the goods in the front third.
De Bruyne has returned to training after a lengthy spell on the sidelines but won’t be in contention for the starting XI, as per Associated Press.
As for Fluminense, former Real Madrid legend Marcelo and veteran midfielder Felipe Melo are Diniz’s best hope of fending off the injury-hit Cityzens.
Once one of the country’s top talents, Paulo Henrique Ganso could be the Brazilians’ most exciting player to watch as he’s expected to pull the strings in the midfield.
Manchester City potential starting line-up:
(4-2-3-1): Ederson; Kyle Walker, John Stones, Ruben Dias, Josko Gvardiol; Rodri, Mateo Kovacic; Bernardo Silva, Phil Foden, Jack Grealish; Julian Alvarez.
Fluminense potential starting line-up:
(4-2-3-1): Fabio; Samuel Xavier, Nino, Felipe Melo, Marcelo; Andre, Matheus Martinelli; Jhon Arias, Paulo Henrique Ganso, Keno; German Cano.
We Say: Manchester City 2-1 Fluminense
We expect Man City to live up to their status as pre-match favourites, yet Fluminense won’t go down without a fight.
Diniz’s men have enough quality to give the Cityzens a run for their money, although they should ultimately have to settle for a silver medal.
- Ratcliffe unable to spend big at Man United this summer due to PSR squeeze
- Fulham ready to offload Palhinha amid Chelsea, Man City & Liverpool interest
- Liverpool eye summer swoop for Crystal Palace defender Marc Guehi
- Premier League calls emergency meeting amid ‘New Deal’ settlement deadline
- Liverpool and Man United table proposals for Kylian Mbappe
- Chelsea poach Brighton recruitment chief Sam Jewell
- Southgate eyes uncapped replacements for struggling Phillips – but are they good enough?
- Should Chelsea try to rescue Kane from Bayern nightmare?
- West Ham shortlist three managers to replace David Moyes
- Ratcliffe to cut around 250 jobs at Man United amid restructuring