International Stadium Yokohama

Referee: Cuneyt Cakir

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  • José Paolo Guerrero 68'

1 - 0


Blues aim to continue Euro reign

Mark Lomas

Rafa Benitez has started to get the best out of Fernando Torres

So the FIFA Club World Cup sponsors got their wish. Al Ahly pushed Corinthians hard but ultimately could not follow in the footsteps of TP Mazembe's 2010 heroes and, with Chelsea breezing past Monterrey in the other semi-final clash, a seventh Europe vs South America final in eight years awaits on Sunday in Yokohama.

UEFA's representatives have dominated the competition's recent history with five successive triumphs, and Barcelona's 4-0 rout of Santos in last year's final was a particularly humiliating attempt to reclaim a trophy that was last in South American hands when Internacional trumped the Catalans in 2006.

The 2012 showpiece pits two maiden continental champions against each other. Chelsea's quest for the Champions League crown finally bore fruit with a penalty shootout victory over Bayern Munich in May, while Corinthians showed even greater patience in waiting 35 years from their first taste of Copa Libertadores action to their inaugural triumph as Boca Juniors were vanquished in July.

Corinthians coach Tite, whose recent achievements had put him in the frame for the Brazil national team job before Luiz Felipe Scolari's appointment, is targeting his second career triumph on Japanese soil having won the Suruga Bank Championship - contested between the winners of the J.League Cup and the Copa Sudamericana - with Internacional in 2009. Rafa Benitez is also seeking a second success on Asian soil. The Spaniard suffered defeat on his last visit to Yokohama's International Stadium when his Liverpool side were defeated 1-0 by Sao Paulo in the 2005 Club World Cup.

However, Benitez made amends when he guided Inter Milan to glory in the competition in Abu Dhabi in 2010, with a straightforward 3-1 victory over TP Mazembe in the final. He has become only the second manager to appear three times at the global gathering - Manuel Jose previously led Al-Ahly in three tournaments - and now has the opportunity to equal former Barcelona boss Pep Guardiola's record of two Club World Cup titles. His Chelsea side have begun to purr after a slow start to his Stamford Bridge reign and against a Corinthians outfit who failed to build after claiming the Copa Libertadores - finishing sixth in the Brazilian Serie A - the Blues are expected to emerge victorious, with the cold climate in Japan another factor that favours the English club over their sun-soaked Samba counterparts.

Corinthians player to watch: Paulinho. Strongly linked with opponents Chelsea in recent months, Paulinho provides the sort of box-to-box presence that the Blues have been lacking since Michael Essien was in his pomp. In this match, a greater emphasis will likely be placed on the Brazil international's defensive midfield duties as he will be tasked with shackling the playmaking triumvirate of Oscar, Eden Hazard and Juan Mata. However, his ability to ghost into the opposition penalty area at opportune moments should not be underestimated and he has a habit of scoring important goals.

Chelsea player to watch: Juan Mata. Unquestionably Chelsea's best player so far this season, Mata has been a dazzling presence in attack and a real constant during a period of upheaval for the club. The Spain winger's value is evident in his stats - 11 goals and 13 assists in his 24 matches this season - and he looked to be carrying no ill-effects of a tiring journey east as he netted the first goal in the Club World Cup semi-final against Monterrey, before creating Chelsea's third when his cutback forced Darvin Chavez to put through his own net.

Key battle: Chicao v Fernando Torres. A rugged, ageing centre-back, Chicao's powers will face a major test against Torres, who has exploded back into form with five goals in his past three games. Chicao joined Corinthians after their relegation from the Brazilian top flight in 2007 and has been a mainstay in the club's defence since then, playing in all 14 games of their run to the 2012 Copa Libertadores title and helping his side keep clean sheets in five of their six knockout matches. Torres' pace and movement could well cause Chicao some problems, though, and it should be an intriguing tussle between the pair.

Stats: Four of the eight Club World Cup finals have been decided by the odd goal, with Sao Paulo, Internacional, Manchester United and Barcelona all winning the trophy by narrow margins.

Trivia: There have previously been four Club World Cups in Japan, of which two have been won by South American clubs (Sao Paulo in 2005 and Internacional in 2006) and two by European clubs (AC Milan in 2007 and Manchester United in 2008). The Club World Cup's predecessor, the Intercontinental Cup, was won 12 times by South Americans and on 13 occasions by Europeans during the 25 years it was held in Japan.

Prediction: Chelsea seem to have found their flow under Rafa Benitez and the Blues should have enough to hand the Spaniard his record-equalling second Club World Cup title.

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