Real Madrid begin their quest to win a fourth Club World Cup title on Wednesday with a match against Japanese outfit Kashima Antlers.
Santi Solari’s side start the tournament as hot favourites to pick up the trophy for a third year in succession, particularly as River Plate crashed out to hosts Al Ain on Tuesday.
Los Blancos’ form, though, has been far from perfect, having struggled to see off Rayo Vallecano in La Liga last Saturday, with a single strike from Karim Benzema the difference.
|Game||Kashima Antlers vs Real Madrid|
|Date||Wednesday, December 19|
|Time||4:30pm GMT / 11:30am ET|
|Stream (US only)||fubo TV (7-day free trial)|
TV Channel, Live Stream & How To Watch
In the United States (US), the game can be watched live and on-demand with fuboTV (7-day free trial).
New users can sign up for a free seven-day trial of the live sports streaming service, which can be accessed via iOS, Android, Chromecast, Amazon Fire TV, Roku and Apple TV as well as on a web browser.
|US TV channel||Online stream|
|Fox Sports 2||fubo TV (7-day free trial)|
In the United Kingdom (UK), the game will not be broadcast.
|UK TV channel||Online stream|
Squads & Team News
|Goalkeepers||Sun-Tae, Sogahata, Kawamata|
|Defenders||Uchida, Shoji, Yamamoto, Nishi, Machida, Anzai, Seung-Hyun, Inukai|
|Midfielders||Silva, Nagaki, Doi, Leandro, Serginho, Endo, Kubota, Tanaka, Ogasawara|
|Forwards||Kanamori, Yamaguchi, Abe|
Kashima boss Go Oiwa is without five players due to injury: Yuma Suzuki, Atsutaka Nakamura, Kento Misao, Yukitoshi Ito and Itsuki Oda. It is the absence of centre forward Suzuki that will be most keenly felt.
Possible Kashima starting XI: Sun-Tae; Uchida, Hyeon Jung, Gen Shoji, Yamamoto; Endo, Nagaki, Leo Silva, Leandro; Serginho, Shoma Doi
|Position||Real Madrid squad|
|Goalkeepers||Navas, Casilla, Courtois|
|Defenders||Carvajal, Vallejo, Ramos, Nacho, Varane, Marcelo, Odriozola, Reguilon|
|Midfielders||Kroos, Modric, Casemiro, Valverde, Vazquez, Llorente, Asensio, Isco, Ceballos|
|Forwards||Benzema, Bale, Vinicius Junior|
Mariano Diaz will miss the competition due to injury, but there has been more positive news for Real Madrid with regards Gareth Bale and Marco Asensio. Both missed training on Monday but took part on Tuesday, with the Welshman touted for a potential starting berth.
Nacho Fernandez is also sidelined.
Possible Real Madrid starting XI: Courtois; Carvajal, Ramos, Varane, Marcelo; Modric, Llorente, Kroos; Lucas, Bale; Benzema
Betting & Match Odds
Real Madrid are hot favourites to progress, priced at 1/3 by bet365. A draw can be backed at 17/4, while Kashima are 13/2 outsiders.
Real Madrid well know that they cannot afford to take Kashima Antlers lightly ahead of their Club World Cup semi-final. It was only two years ago, in the final of the tournament, that they were very nearly unseated by the Japanese side, triumphing 4-2 after extra-time.
Cristiano Ronaldo was Los Blancos’ hero on that occasion, bagging a hat-trick to help his side to glory in Yokohama. He has departed now and Madrid are chasing their first major trophy of the post-Ronaldo era.
Head coach Santi Solari has been at pains to stress how important he feels this competition is, despite its often derided value in nature.
“To call it a lesser title is very European,” he said. “When I was 13-years-old, I’d run away from school to watch these matches when it was still the Intercontinental Cup.”
Despite being given the hot seat until the end of the season, the Argentine finds himself under some pressure before the tournament after recent displays from his side that have been less than stellar.
Although Madrid have stabilised their position in La Liga, narrow 1-0 wins against struggling Huesca and Rayo Vallecano sandwich the club’s worst ever European home defeat, which saw them go down 3-0 to CSKA Moscow just a week ago.
Kashima, therefore, know the European giants are vulnerable.
The AFC Champions League winners have already caused something of an upset in the competition by ousting Guadalajara 3-2 in the second round, scoring three times in the second half to overhaul an early deficit.
The warning signs are there for Madrid, who want to return to the Zayed Sports City Stadium on Saturday for the final against Al-Ain as opposed to the third-place match against River Plate.