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PHOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ - FCB

Five days after the football exhibition in ​​Madrid, Barça are still the centre of the world's footballing focus, as this Thursday they make their debut in the Club World Cup championship, in a semi-final against Al-Sadd. The Catalan team, crowned European Champions at Wembley, are Europe's representatives in the competition which is being held in Japan, and they are up against the kings of Asia. Meanwhile, Santos from Brazil are waiting to see who their opponent in the final will be.

Once again, in Japan

It is the fourth time that Barça are taking part in this tournament, which they won for the first time in 2009 in the United Arab Emirates. Before that, though, they had failed in two previous editions played in Japan: the Club World Cup in 2006, in a fateful final against Inter of Porto Alegre, and the Intercontinental Cup in 1992, against Sao Paulo (2-1) . The team is  hoping that the third time to Japan will be the charm.

Squad of 23

Barça, with the European Super Cup and the Spanish Super Cup already won, leading in the League, and top of their Champions League group, are looking for a third title this season. They're going into it with morale and confidence sky high, though, as the players have stated in the press conferences previous to the game, they're aware of the difficulty of reaching a Club World Cup final, and the difficulty in winning two games, having to overcome jet lag in the process.

The whole first team squad have come to Japan, with the exception of the injured Ibrahim Afellay. Also with the squad are Cuenca, Dos Santos and Oier from Barça B.

An opponent who doesn't rule out a surprise

Al-Sadd, meanwhile, are expected to defend deeply, be physically strong, and be dangerous on the counterattack. The team from Doha (Qatar), managed by Uruguayan Jorge Fossatti, have a powerful attacking trio, made up of the Senegalese, Mamadou Niang; the Ivorian, Kader Keita; and the Algerian, Belhadj. They won the right to challenge Barça by beating Esperance, from Tunisia, in the quarter-finals.


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