Zidane and Real Madrid aim for history at FIFA Club World Cup

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If Real Madrid come through a semi-final on Wednesday as expected and land the title in Abu Dhabi on Saturday then they will complete 2017 in style

With their team languishing eight points behind Barcelona in La Liga with a Clasico to come before Christmas - and facing the threat of billionaires Paris St-Germain in the Champions League knockouts in the New Year - it would easy to forgive Real Madrid fans for not quite being in the festive mood.

However, Madridistas can be buoyed by their team’s 5-0 destruction of Sevilla at the weekend and Cristiano Ronaldo’s record-equalling fifth Ballon d’Or award.

Real arrived in 25-degree Abu Dhabi late on Sunday night for the defence of their FIFA Club World Cup title which begins on Wednesday. After a gentle exercise session in front of a few hundred locals at the New York University on Monday, the real business begins. 

Al Jazira – winners of the UAE Arabian Gulf League and conquerors of Urawa Red Diamonds in the quarter finals of this tournament – lie in wait for Real at the Zayed Sports City Stadium midweek.

The side coached by Henk Ten Cate should provide no great opposition for Madrid’s stars, while Copa Libertadores champions Gremio lying in wait in Saturday’s final.

“I haven’t seen many matches,” Marcelo said. “I know there is a Brazilian Romarinho who is a very good player. Tomorrow we will see a lot of things about the team.”

The Club World Cup might not mean much to the fan on the street but there is no doubting the seriousness with which Madrid are taking it.

“This tournament is very important for us because we have to fight for all the titles,” said Marcelo. That’s why we will go for it to reach the final.”

“The team is doing very well. Now we have to think about the match tomorrow. It will be complicated for sure.”

Winning it and defending their title would give the club their most successful 12 months in history. Never before have they gained five titles across a single year. So far in 2017 they have won La Liga, the Champions League, the Spanish Super Cup and the Uefa Super Cup. Adding the Club World Cup would give them unequalled spoils.

Zinedine Zidane too has history on the line in the United Arab Emirates. The Frenchman is in with a chance of becoming Real’s second-most successful coach of all time despite being less than two full years into his tenure. He has racked up titles at an unprecedented rate and currently sits alongside club legend Vicente del Bosque in the all-time honours table on seven.

One more would place him alongside Luis Molowny on eight, who coached at Santiago Bernabeu in four separate spells. Still out in the distance is Miguel Munoz on 16, including nine league titles.

That would be a remarkable achievement for Zidane given his relative lack of experience at this level before accepting the job.

“It motivates me and all the players,” Zidane said. “We want to defend our title that we won that last year. We all want to go back with the trophy.”

This season has undoubtedly been extremely testing for Zidane and his players. They are only fourth in La Liga – unimaginable for a club of this stature – and only qualified for the Champions League last 16 as runners-up behind Tottenham Hotspur.

Marcelo Real Madrid Club World Cup training 11122017

Cristiano Ronaldo Real Madrid Sevilla 091217

There have been damaging defeats to Real Betis and Girona in league competition while no-one who witness Spurs’s 3-1 trashing of the European champions at Wembley will forget it in a hurry.

Madrid could be said to be suffering from a lack of options. The likes of Pepe, Danilo, Alvaro Morata and James Rodriguez were not fully replaced and that has led to a shallowness in squad depth being exposed.

It is clear that Cristiano Ronaldo has not been at his best this season even if he is being primed to explode into form after the turn of the year.

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But his tournament gives Ronaldo the chance to add to his two goals scored against Sevilla on Saturday, netted in celebration for yet another Golden Ball. The defences of Al Jazira and Gremio should be no match for his power if the likes of Isco and Luka Modric can find the right passes.

This competition is by no means as exacting as regular competition in La Liga or the Champions League but it gives Madrid the chance to get away, clear their heads and make sure they can be at their best come el Clasico.

By that stage they could well be parading five 2017 titles on the field, and reminding Barca that they might be on top of the league right now but that hasn’t been the case over the course of the year. 

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