Preview: Al-Hilal vs. Chelsea – prediction, team news, lineups
Chelsea will be bidding to secure their spot in the Club World Cup final when they take on Saudi Arabian outfit Al-Hilal in the semi-finals of the competition on Wednesday afternoon.
The Champions League winners join the competition at the last-four stage, but Al-Hilal had to play a quarter-final against Al Jazira Club on Sunday, recording a 6-1 win to advance to the semi-finals.Information Guide Nigeria
Al-Hilal qualified for the Club World Cup by winning the AFC Champions League, overcoming Pohang Steelers in the final of the tournament in November.
The Blue Waves have won eight, drawn seven and lost two of their 17 Saudi Professional League matches this season, meanwhile, to occupy the fourth spot in the table, boasting 31 points, 13 points behind leaders Al-Ittihad.
Leonardo Jardim’s side put in an excellent performance in the semi-finals of the Club World Cup, running out 6-1 winners over Al Jazira Club to breeze into the final of the competition.
Al-Hilal actually fell 1-0 behind in the 14th minute of the contest, but former Manchester United striker Odion Ighalo levelled the scores in the 36th minute before the Saudi Arabian side netted another five times without reply to set up a final against Champions League holders Chelsea.
As well as Ighalo, Al-Hilal have former West Bromwich Albion attacker Matheus Pereira in their squad, in addition to Moussa Marega and Andre Carrillo, and it will be fascinating to see how the Royal Club perform against Thomas Tuchel’s side on Wednesday.
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Chelsea, meanwhile, last competed in the Club World Cup back in 2012, suffering a surprise 1-0 loss to Brazilian outfit Corinthians, so the Premier League club are bidding to win the competition for the first time.
The Blues qualified for the tournament through their Champions League success last term and will undoubtedly be the favourites to win this semi-final before potentially taking on Palmeiras or Al Ahly in the final.
Tuchel’s side will enter the contest off the back of a 2-1 win over Plymouth Argyle in the FA Cup on Saturday, while they also beat Tottenham Hotspur 2-0 in the Premier League before the break.
Chelsea’s next Premier League game is scheduled against Crystal Palace on February 19 before the first leg of their Champions League last-16 contest at home to Lille on February 22.
The London club had to fly to Abu Dhabi without their manager, with Tuchel testing positive for COVID-19 ahead of their FA Cup clash on Saturday, but there is a chance that the German could join the team for Saturday’s final, should they manage to navigate their way past Al-Hilal.
Al-Hilal Club World Cup form:
Al-Hilal form (all competitions):
Chelsea form (all competitions):
Al-Hilal have no fresh injury concerns from their semi-final success, so it would not be a surprise to see Jardim send the same starting XI onto the field on Wednesday.
As mentioned, Ighalo scored their vital leveller against Al Jazira Club, and the Nigerian will be hoping to use his experience of previously facing Chelsea to help his side triumph in this match.
Pereira, who starred for West Brom during his time at the Hawthorns, will play as the number 10, but Carrillo could find himself on the bench once again, with Salem Al Dawsari set to feature on the right of the attack.
As for Chelsea, Reece James has been included in the travelling squad despite the England international not yet returning from a hamstring problem, but the right-back is not expected to feature in the competition.
Goalkeeper Edouard Mendy is set to join up with his teammates at a later date, having been involved in the Africa Cup of Nations final for Senegal, while Mason Mount is included despite picking up a knock against Plymouth.
Ben Chilwell and Ruben Loftus-Cheek are both injured, though, with the pair remaining in London.
Tuchel could decide to stick with the 4-3-3 formation that he used against Plymouth, but Marcos Alonso and Timo Werner are pushing to be involved in the starting XI, while Saul Niguez, Ross Barkley and Kenedy will be hoping for opportunities in the semi-final.
Al-Hilal possible starting lineup:
Al Maiouf; Abdul Hamid, Hyun-Soo, Ali Bulaihi, Al Shahrani; Kanno, Cuellar; Marega, Pereira, Al Dawsari; IghaloJAMB Result
Chelsea possible starting lineup:
Kepa; Azpilicueta, T Silva, Rudiger, Alonso; Kovacic, Kante, Jorginho; Werner, Lukaku, Ziyech.
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