Champions League winners Chelsea and Copa Libertadores champions Palmeiras will do battle in the Club World Cup final in Abu Dhabi on Saturday.
The English outfit defeated Al-Hilal in their semi-final on Wednesday, while their opponents got the better of Egyptian giants Al-Ahly to reach the final.
Chelsea booked their spot in this year’s Club World Cup by winning their second Champions League title, triumphing over Manchester City in the final in Porto as Kai Havertz netted the only goal of the game.
Despite winning the UEFA Super Cup on penalties against Villarreal to begin the new season on a high, Thomas Tuchel‘s side may be questioning their aims at this point of the campaign, now finding themselves 11 points off the summit of the Premier League table after 22 games.
On the back of an important 2-0 league win over Tottenham Hotspur, halting a potential winless run in the English top flight, the Blues met third-tier Plymouth Argyle in their final game prior to the Club World Cup, and Tuchel’s men required extra time to scrape through with a 2-1 victory, with Marcos Alonso eventually netting the decisive goal after the Pilgrims took a lead in normal time.
They then travelled to Abu Dhabi to take on Al-Hilal on Wednesday, and Romelu Lukaku‘s close-range finish made the difference between the sides, firing the London club into Saturday’s final.
With Tuchel absent from the touchline due to a positive COVID-19 test, Chelsea will look to secure their first Club World Cup title after falling to Corinthians in the final of their only previous appearance in 2012.
They take on a Palmeiras side also looking to avenge their failure on the global stage after dropping out in the semi-final of last year’s tournament.
Following that disappointment, Palmeiras became the first side to retain the Copa Libertadores trophy since 2001 last season, as they defeated fellow Brazilian giants Flamengo 2-1 in a dramatic final thanks to Deyverson‘s extra-time winner.
In a stellar campaign, the Alviverde finished third in the Campeonato Brasileiro Serie A, and they have kicked off the new term in similar fashion, winning three and drawing one of their opening four regional outings in the Campeonato Paulista in their search for a 26th title.
Abel Ferreira‘s side impressed in their Club World Cup semi-final too, defeating Al Ahly 2-0 with Raphael Veiga and Dudu getting on the scoresheet, lining them up for a tough clash with Chelsea as a result.
The 10-time Brazilian champions will now look to end their nation’s 10-year wait for a Club World Cup triumph and take the trophy back to South America to cap off a strong two-year spell on all fronts.
Chelsea Club World Cup form:
Chelsea form (all competitions):
Palmeiras Club World Cup form:
Palmeiras form (all competitions):
Chelsea will remain without full-backs Reece James and Ben Chilwell, with the duo joining the camp despite ongoing injuries, while Mason Mount was fit to feature off the bench against Al-Hilal.
Goalkeeper Edouard Mendy also returned to the squad after a triumphant Africa Cup of Nations campaign with Senegal, although Spanish stopper Kepa Arrizabalaga impressed in his absence in the Premier League and with a clean sheet last time out and should again be given the nod.
The Blues will likely avoid making many changes from Wednesday’s victory, with Kai Havertz and Hakim Ziyech again expected to flank Romelu Lukaku, who netted the winner in the semi-final.
After a strong showing of their own, Palmeiras could also field an unchanged side, with Raphael Veiga and Dudu again set to play key roles going forward after their goals in the semi-final.
Luan and Paraguay international Gustavo Gomez form a strong centre-back pairing, with Danilo and Ze Rafael providing further cover at the base of midfield.
Chelsea possible starting lineup:
Kepa; Christensen, Silva, Rudiger; Azpilicueta, Jorginho, Kovacic, Alonso; Havertz, Lukaku, Ziyech
Palmeiras possible starting lineup:
Weverton; Rocha, Gomez, Luan, Piquerez; Danilo, Rafael; Dudu, Veiga, Scarpa; Rony
We say: Chelsea 1-0 Palmeiras
Historically, European sides fare well in the Club World Cup, and we see that trend continuing with the Blues’ superior squad favourites to lift the trophy.
Palmeiras will certainly be no pushovers, but we expect the London side to get the job done on Saturday thanks to their sound defensive structure.
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