They speak the same language. They share the same goal. There is, however, a colossal gulf in reputation between Atlante and Barcelona heading into Wednesday’s second UAE 2009 semi-final.
The Cancun side failed to reach the Mexican Clausura play-offs, while the Catalan giants have won every competition they have been in this year. Atlante, nevertheless, thrived in a 3-0 quarter-final win over Auckland City, and as Barça coach Pep Guardiola recently admitted: “Anyone can beat anyone in a competition like this.”
Atlante-Barcelona, Zayed Sports City Stadium, Abu Dhabi, Wednesday 16 December, 20.00 (local time)
A place in the UAE 2009 final will reward the victors, and Barcelona will be the overwhelming favourites to seize it. Pep Guardiola’s side are top of La Liga, unbeaten in 15 games this term, and three of their cast – namely Andres Iniesta, Lionel Messi and Xavi – are among the five nominess for the FIFA World Player award for 2009.
Atlante will nonetheless pose a genuine threat. The genius of midfielder Jose Gonzalez was apparent against Auckland, as was the quality of forward Daniel Arreola. Moreover, the CONCACAF champions have vowed they will not be intimidated by the occasion or their illustrious opponents, as they strive to become the first team outside Europe or South America to reach the FIFA Club World Cup decider.
4 – The number of goals Barcelona scored, without reply, when they last played a Mexican side at the FIFA Club World Cup. On that occasion, the Catalan giants overwhelmed America to reach the Japan 2006 final. Victor Valdes, Carles Payol, Andres Iniesta and Rafael Marquez – all part of their UAE 2009 squad – turned out for Barça that day, with the latter on target against his compatriots.
"Barcelona's midfield is amazing. Xavi and Iniesta mark the rhythm of the team. We have to be on top of the ball if we want to take it away from them, but that won't be easy,” Christian Bermudez, Atalnte midfielder.
“This is the most important title for all of us, as we’ve never won it. That is enough to give us 100 per cent motivation,” Andres Iniesta, Barcelona midfielder.