Seven on the starting line at UAE 2018

  • FIFA Club World Cup kicks off on 12 December

  • Six continental champions and host club Al Ain will vie for global glory

  • Can Real Madrid make it three in a row?

The 15th FIFA Club World Cup kicks off on Wednesday 12 December in United Arab Emirates, where six continental champions and host club Al Ain will vie for global glory.

Can anyone stop Real Madrid? They travel to the Middle East aiming for a record third successive Club World Cup title, presenting manager Santiago Solari with the chance to win his first trophy as Los Blancos boss.

The rest of the chasing pack will want to have their say though, especially Copa Libertadores champions River Plate, who will be hoping to bring the trophy back to South America for the first time since 2012.

The teams

Al Ain (United Arab Emirates) - CD Guadalajara (Mexico) - Esperance de Tunis (Tunisia) - Kashima Antlers (Japan) - Real Madrid (Spain) - River Plate (Argentina) - Team Wellington (New Zealand)

Host Cities

Abu Dhabi - Al Ain

What you need to know

Three for Madrid? Real travel to UAE looking to retain their global crown. Should they be successful, Los Blancos would be the first team to lift the Club World Cup trophy three times on the trot.

Can South America wrestle back the title? European sides have reigned supreme at the Club World Cup in recent years. 2012 was the last time a non-European team won the tournament, when Corinthians defeated Chelsea in Yokohama, Japan. River last reached the final in 2015, when they were defeated by Barcelona, and will be hoping to go a step further this time around.

New kids on the block: UAE Pro-League winners Al Ain, CONCACAF kings CD Guadalajara and OFC Champions League winners Team Wellington will all be making their Club World Cup debuts at UAE 2018.

Can Kashima recreate 2016 heroics? Japan 2016 host club Kashima Antlers shocked the world two years ago when they stormed to the Club World Cup final and took Real Madrid to extra time. They return to the tournament this year as AFC Champions League winners.

In numbers

The number of times an African team has reached the Club World Cup final – TP Mazembe in 2010 and Raja Casablanca in 2013. Africa’s representatives this year, Esperance de Tunis, must overcome the winner of the play-off between Al Ain and Team Wellington, before facing River in the semi-finals.
Barcelona and Real Madrid are the only sides to have won the Club World Cup three times. Victory at UAE 2018 would see Los Blancos outrank their rivals as the tournament’s most successful team.
The number of times record appearance holders Auckland City – denied the chance of an eighth consecutive outing at the tournament this year by Team Wellington – have appeared at the Club World Cup. 
Ten of the 14 finals played to date have been between European and South American teams. European teams have won ten of the 14 titles to date, with the other four claimed by South American teams. Success at UAE 2018 for Real Madrid would see them lift the Club World Cup trophy a record four times. 
YOKOHAMA, JAPAN - DECEMBER 16: Alessandro of Corinthians holds the trophy after winning the FIFA Club World Cup Final Match between Corinthians and Chelsea at the International Stadium Yokohama on December 16, 2012 in Yokohama, Japan. (Photo by Michael Regan - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)