European champions Real Madrid make their FIFA Club World Cup Japan 2016 entrance against Club America in the second semi-final. The victors will fight it out for the trophy with the winners of the first semi-final, between Atletico Nacional and Kashima Antlers.
Club America-Real Madrid, International Stadium Yokohama, Thursday 15 December, 19.30 (local time)
Club America said they would be back and they have been as good as their word, returning to the competition at the first attempt and then giving themselves the chance to celebrate their centenary in the best possible style, with a dream match against Real Madrid. Having held their nerve in a comeback win against Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors of Korea Republic in the second round, Las Águilas head to Yokohama with the intention of making life hard for the tournament favourites.
Club captain Rubens Sambueza is hoping to return to the starting XI to help them with that task and to offer more control and bite in midfield. Ecuadorian forward Michael Arroyo is also aiming for a start after playing a big part in both of America’s goals against Jeonbuk, while Silvio Romero, the two-goal hero of that game, will put his fine form to the test against Real’s near-watertight defence. Should they win, America will be the first Mexican side to reach the final of the Club World Cup.
History is on Real Madrid’s side, however. The Spanish club have never lost in the competition, recording four wins and two draws to date, and beat a Mexican side, Cruz Azul, on their last appearance. Aside from the statistics, Los Blancos arrive in Japan on a high and are determined to end 2016 by winning their third title of the year. Sergio Ramos and Cristiano Ronaldo head up a team that is largely the same as the one that lifted the trophy at Morocco 2014. Having recovered from their respective injuries, Toni Kroos and Casemiro will look to make up for the absence of the sidelined Gareth Bale.
35 - the number of matches that reigning European champions Real Madrid have gone since they last lost. Their longest unbeaten run in 27 years, it comprises 26 wins and nine draws in all competitions and stretches back to April.
“It’s players and not shirts that win games. We’ll go out to play Real Madrid without any kind of burden on our shoulders. We have to work twice as hard to make sure we’ve got two men up against every one of theirs all across the pitch. We’re going to play a great side and we’re going to see what we’re made of.”
Club America coach Ricardo La Volpe
“We’d like to get the Champions Badge back. The Club World Cup gives us the chance to test ourselves against other styles of play that we’re perhaps not so used to. We have new goals to achieve, and new records to break. There are always new challenges.”
Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos