FIFA Club World Cup explained: Real Madrid out to defend their title in Abu Dhabi
Last Updated: 11/12/17 1:40pm
Real Madrid have won four trophies in 2017 but they could end it with a fifth if they are able to successfully retain the Club World Cup this week.
Having already lifted La Liga, Champions League, UEFA Super Cup and Supercopa de Espana trophies this calendar year, Real Madrid will be looking to add the Club World Cup to their cabinet to cap an incredible 2017.
Shortly after thrashing Sevilla 5-0 at the Bernabeu in La Liga on Saturday, Zinedine Zidane's squad boarded a flight bound for Abu Dhabi on Sunday to compete against this year's other continental champions.
So, what is the FIFA Club World Cup?
The FIFA Club World Cup is a competition that pits FIFA's six reigning Confederation champions against each other at the end of a calendar year.
Those confederations are; UEFA (Europe), CONMEBOL (South America), AFC (Asia), CAF (Africa), CONCACAF (North America, Central America, Carribean) and the OFC (Oceania).
Alongside the champions of each confederation, the winners of the domestic competition in the country where the Club World Cup is being hosted, also qualify to form a seven-team tournament.
What is the format?
The Club World Cup is a knockout competition. Due to there being seven clubs in the competition, there is a play-off between the OFC Champions League winners and the domestic champions of the host country to qualify for the quarter-finals.
At the quarter-final stage, the AFC, CAF and CONCACAF champions enter the competition with one of them playing the winner of the play-off.
The two winners of the quarter-finals then face either the UEFA or CONMEBOL champions in the semi-final, with the winners going through to the final and the losers dropping into a third-place play-off.
Should a match at any stage in the competition end in a draw, extra-time and potentially penalties come into play to determine a winner.
Who are the contenders?
Real Madrid have gone straight into the semi-finals where they will play against the UAE Pro-League champions, Al Jazira, who eliminated New Zealand's Auckland City in the play-off and Japan's Urawa Red Diamonds in the quarter-final, on Wednesday.
In the other semi-final, Brazilian side and Copa Libertadores winners Gremio will face Mexican side Pachuca, who defeated Wydad Casablanca of Morocco after extra-time in the last eight. That game takes place on Tuesday.
FIFA Club World Cup schedule
|12/12/17||Gremio v Pachuca||Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium, Al Ain||17.00 GMT|
|13/12/17||Al Jazira v Real Madrid||Zayed Sports City Stadium, Abu Dhabi||17.00 GMT|
|16/12/17||TBC v TBC||Zayed Sports City Stadium, Abu Dhabi||14.00 GMT|
|16/12/17||TBC v TBC||Zayed Sports City Stadium, Abu Dhabi||17.00 GMT|
Both the final and the third-place play-off will take place on Saturday at the Zayed Sports City Stadium in Abu Dhabi.
When did the Club World Cup start?
The inaugural edition of the Club World Cup took place in January 2000 with Manchester United becoming the first European club to take part, following their famous 2-1 win over Bayern Munich in the 1999 Champions League final.
Manchester United's decision to take part caused plenty of consternation at the time as they withdrew from the FA Cup in order to play.
Back then, there was a group stage format containing two groups of four teams with the winners of each competing against each other in the final. Manchester United crashed out of the competition following a 3-1 defeat to Vasco Da Gama.
Between 2001-04, the competition didn't take place, but it returned in 2005 with an altered seven-team format that has remained ever since.
How have European clubs performed in the past?
Real Madrid have won both competitions that they have competed in the past, beating Argentine side San Lorenzo in 2014 and Kashima Antlers from Japan last year.
Their domestic rivals Barcelona are the most successful club in the competition, winning it three times in total, most recently in 2015 when they beat River Plate.
Manchester United, AC Milan, Inter and Bayern Munich have each won the competition once apiece while Brazilian clubs Corinthians (twice), Sao Paulo and Internacional, account for the only non-European winners.
Who are the players to watch out for?
Former Real Madrid player Lassana Diarra is contracted to Al Jazira but he will not feature against his old side as he wasn't registered to play due to injury.
One player who Real Madrid will have to keep an eye on, though, is Morrocan forward Mbark Boussoufa, who won three Belgian Player of the Year titles during a spell with Anderlecht.
On the other side of the semi-final draw, Pachuca have a famous face in their ranks in the form of ex-CSKA Moscow and AC Milan midfielder Keisuke Honda. The Japanese playmaker has been in good form for his new club, scoring six goals since joining in the summer.
Gremio, meanwhile, boast the 2016 Olympic gold medal winner Luan within their ranks as well as the highly-rated midfielder Arthur, who has been linked with a move to Real Madrid's fierce rivals Barcelona recently.
Are Real Madrid taking the competition seriously?
There is a general perception that European clubs have placed a lesser importance on the Club World Cup than countries from other continents.
However, Zidane seems keen to win it for a second time as he has named a full-strength squad for the trip to the United Arab Emirates, with Gareth Bale included in the travelling party.
Speaking after the win over Sevilla at the weekend, Zidane said: "We did very well and it was very important for morale to get the three points before going away to prepare for the game on Wednesday (in the Club World Cup).
"Everyone thinks that it'll be easy (in the United Arab Emirates), but it won't be.
"We are going to travel tomorrow (Sunday) and we want to do a good job and win another trophy".
Nevertheless, Zidane may look to rotate his squad against Al-Jazira and again in the final on Saturday should they make it, as their next fixture afterwards is the El Clasico meeting with Barcelona on December 23rd, live on Sky Sports Football.