- National champions Al Jazira welcome Club World Cup to UAE
- Auckland City appear for a record ninth time
- Tournament begins in Al Ain, returning for the first time since 2010
After setting up residency in Morocco and Japan for the last six editions of the FIFA Club World Cup, the competition is making its return to the United Arab Emirates.
Like any good hosts, the nation's brightest and best - Al Jazira - are meeting us at the door, where they will meet the footballing party’s most frequent guest, Auckland City. On Wednesday, they will begin the ten-day tournament’s quest to crown a world champion.
The Match Al Jazira vs Auckland City
Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium, Al Ain
Wednesday 6 December, 21:00 local time
*What you need to know *With an 11-point lead on nearest rivals Al Wasl, Al Jazira won the UAE's Arabian Gulf League at a canter back in April, claiming just their second title since being founded over 40 years ago. Key to their successes then, and most likely now, will be national team hot-shot Ali Mabkhout. With five goals in his last three games, he is the man Auckland City need to stop.
If anyone knows what beginning this tournament is like, it is the Navy Blues. This will be their ninth time among the contenders, having been a part of the opening game at the past seven tournaments. Their hearts will be set on producing a run akin to their 2014 heroics, where a shoot-out triumph in the curtain-raiser set them towards an historic bronze medal.
*The Stat 14 *- The combined number of Club World Cup tournaments Angel Berlanga and Emiliano Tade have played in. The pair have accrued a whopping 17 games between each other, with the latter set to equal former team-mate Ivan Vicelich’s tally of ten, should he feature against the host side. The all-time record stands at 11.
*The Words *“If you are entering into a tournament, then you have to believe in the team, and I believe my team can even beat Real Madrid. Nothing is impossible in football.”
Romarinho, Al Jazira
“We've got a lot of players that have big game experience. We have seven or more players who have played over 100 games for the club now and that stands us in really good stead.”
Darren White, Auckland City