With the title of ‘World Champions’ at stake, neither Chelsea nor Corinthians will be holding back punches when they clash in the final of the Club World Cup. The European champions will be confident going into this game as favourites but their South American counterparts promises to give them plenty to worry about.
Chelsea brushed aside Monterrey with ease in their semi-final clash but their meeting with Corinthians promises to be far more challenging. Despite crashing out of the Champions League, the winning of which qualified them for this tournament in the first place, Rafa Benitez's influence is gradually starting to show in their performances over their last three games. Meanwhile, Corinthians have endured a trying season in their domestic league finishing 6th and they will be looking forward to capping it off with a Club World Cup title to their name.
Their defense has been far more organized while they have also scored 12 goals in the last three outings. Fernando Torres has shown signs of revival in those games and has been heavily involved in Chelsea securing all three victories. The directness with which they have operated of late has certainly helped the Spaniard while finally hitting a bit of a purple patch will do his confidence no harm.
There were a lot of positives to take from Chelsea’s latest victory and the performance of David Luiz in midfield certainly stood out. The Brazilian has always proved to be technically gifted but often lacked the composure and concentration to be reliable in defense. He’s always looked at his best when striding forward with the ball or popping up in the opposition’s penalty box so it’s no surprise that he’s taken to this more advanced role like a duck to water.
Oscar’s inclusion in the starting line-up would be justified with the former Sao Paulo player more than familiar with his old club’s fierce rivals. However, that would mean that Victor Moses will probably have to settle for a place on the bench which implies that Benitez would have to sacrifice that bit of width he brings to the attacking line.
The back-four has looked fairly accomplished as Branislav Ivanovic and Gary Cahill have looked a formidable central defensive pair while Ashley Cole has maintained his usual high standards. Summer recruit, Cesar Azpilicueta has had a decent start to his Chelsea career but he was troubled on more than one occasion by Monterrey’s left winger Jesus Corona in the last game. Persisting with Luiz and John Obi Mikel in midfield could be the way to counter Corinthians’ mobile midfield. Paulinho will definitely need to be kept on a short leash or his dynamic and energetic play could cause problems for Chelsea.
Chelsea's Man to Watch - Fernando Torres
Unsurprisingly, Torres' return to goal scoring ways has coincided with a turn in fortunes for the club and Benitez as well. The former Liverpool boss has got the side playing a little more direct and that has benefited the Spanish striker. They have started to send in early crosses rather than playing the ball around the edge of the box too often. The final pass seems to arrive quicker now that affords Torres the chance to take advantage of the space available in the final third rather than being crowded out before the ball is played into his path. With five goals in his last three games, the Spaniard is starting to resemble his old self and it just goes to show how a bit of confidence can transform a player.
The Copa Libertadores winners beat African champions Al-Ahly of Egypt 1-0 to book their place in this year’s final. European sides have beaten South American opposition in four of the least five Club World Cup finals so the Brazilian side will be desperate to stop that trend.
Their manager Adenor Leonardo Bacchi, better known as ‘Tite’ is the man leading them into this final. He ensures that his side remains tactically astute and defensively sound. They like to move the ball quickly and work tirelessly to close down their opponents and press them high up the pitch. With the kind of high-energy system they employ, Benitez’s men certainly won’t have things all their own way.
STAT: Corinthians have only failed to score twice in their last 25 games.
The Chelsea boss is known to be a top tactician especially when it comes to one-off games and his expertise will definitely be put to the test by his opposite number. Corinthians are not a typical Brazilian side and while they manage to find the back of the net more often than not, they also keep things tight at the back. They only conceded three goals in twelve games during their Copa Libertadores success.
On one hand, Chelsea’s full backs have been noticeably tucked in and restricted to forward runs since Benitez’s arrival. However, Corinthians operate in much the same way, never leaving space between the lines. If Benitez chooses to start with Moses on the bench then it is conceivable that their narrow attack may not cause their opponents enough problems.
The Brazilians possess a strong and energetic midfield with the all-round dynamic play of Paulinho partnered by the tenacious Ralf. It may be a good ploy on Chelsea’s part to try and include Ramirez and Luiz in the same midfield in order to match their opponent’s energy in the middle of the park.
Up front, the likes of Juan Martinez, Emerson Sheikh and Paolo Guerrero will keep the Chelsea defence on their toes.
Corinthians' Man to Watch - Paulinho
The 24 year old is certainly among the more gifted players in Brazil’s domestic league and rumour has it that Chelsea have had an eye on him even prior to their trip to Japan. He is a typical box-to-box player whose energy allows him to rush to the support of either defence or attack.
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