- UEFA Champions League semi-finals begin this week
- Teams from England, Spain and France in the running
- Only one of the quartet have previously won the FIFA Club World Cup
Europe’s premier club competition is down to the final four, with the semi-finals being played this week and next. Record tournament winners Real Madrid will face Chelsea, while last year’s beaten finalists Paris Saint-Germain will take on Manchester City.
- Real Madrid–Chelsea (27 April / 5 May)
- Paris Saint-Germain–Manchester City (28 April / 4 May)
Who will make it through to the final on 29 May and book themselves a spot at the FIFA Club World Cup 2021™? Two previous Champions League winners – Real Madrid and Chelsea – are set to meet, and both of those teams have taken part in the Club World Cup before (with the Spanish side having won it on four occasions).
PSG and Manchester City have yet to participate in the Club World Cup, but they have plenty of experience in the competition in their ranks. Here is an overview of this season’s European top four.
Los Merengues won their third Club World Cup in a row in 2018, taking them past rivals Barcelona to give them four titles in total and make them the most successful team in the history of the tournament.
Plenty of their players have won club football’s most prestigious trophy in the past, with captain Sergio Ramos taking part in all four wins (2014, 2016–2018), along with Luka Modric, Karim Benzema, Isco and Toni Kroos. The German midfield maestro is actually ahead of the pack and the outright record-holder with five Club World Cup winner’s medals, having also tasted victory in 2013 with Bayern Munich.
In the past 15 years, European teams have emerged victorious on 14 occasions at the Club World Cup, with 2012 being the only exception. That year, Chelsea travelled to Japan as UEFA Champions League winners but came up just short in the final, going down 1-0 to Corinthians of Brazil. The final of the Champions League was an equally tight affair, with the London side defeating Bayern Munich on penalties.
The only Chelsea player who featured back then is current captain Cesar Azpilicueta, the right back having joined the club in summer 2012 and who went on to feature in the semi-finals (a 3-1 win over Monterrey CF) and the final.
In this year’s quarter-finals, the club from the French capital exacted their revenge in the rematch of the previous year’s final, squeezing past Bayern on away goals (3-2, 0-1). PSG have yet to take part in the Club World Cup, but two of their players have already had the pleasure with other sides.
Goalkeeper Keylor Navas featured in all four of Real Madrid’s wins, while one of the beautiful game’s biggest names - Neymar - won the trophy in 2015 with Barcelona. Four years earlier, the Brazilian superstar was in the Santos side that went down 4-0 to the Catalan giants before going on to join the club 18 months later.
Only one member of the current English Premier League leaders has any Club World Cup experience, and he will not be on the pitch for the Champions League semi-final.
Spanish coach Pep Guardiola has won the Club World Cup three times (2009 and 2011 with Barcelona, 2013 with Bayern). The former FIFA World Coach of the Year has taken City to the last four of the Champions League for the first time, with the club having previously gone out once in the Round of 16 and three times in the quarter-finals.