Who: Chelsea vs. Monterrey
What: FIFA Club World Cup semifinal
Where: International Stadium Yokohama, Yokohama, Japan
When: Thursday, December 13, 2012
Weather: The Weather Channel forecast
Time: 10:30 a.m. GMT/5:30 a.m. ET/2:30 a.m. PT
Television: Fox Soccer Channel, FOX Deportes (US), BBC Red Button, BBC HD (UK)
Worldwide Live Streams and TV Channels: LiveSoccerTV.com
3-Way Odds: Chelsea -227, Monterrey +625, Draw +300
Total: Over 2½ +110, Under 2½ -153
Decimal Odds: Chelsea 1.44, Monterrey 7.25, Draw 4.00
Decimal Total: Over 2½ 2.10, Under 2½ 1.65
Fractional Odds: Chelsea 11/25, Monterrey 25/4, Draw 3/1
Fractional Total: Over 2½ 11/10, Under 2½ 13/20
Source: sportsbook.com (Curaçao, Netherlands Antilles)
Chelsea will look to make it three-straight wins under new interim manager Rafael Benítez when it meets Monterrey on Thursday in the semifinal of the FIFA Club World Cup at International Stadium Yokohama in Yokohama, Japan.
Monterrey, the CONCACAF Champions League winners and members of the Mexico Primera Division, made it to this showdown with the European Champions League winners by defeating Asian Champions League holders Ulsan Hyundai, 3-1 in the quarterfinals on Sunday.
On paper it seems this match should be an easy win for the Blues, but upon closer scrutiny Monterrey matches up very well against Chelsea and should ultimately prove to be quite a test for the English Premier League club.
The Club World Cup—a tournament between the winners of FIFA's six confederations plus a host-nation team—has been a hotbed for the underdogs the last couple of years. Congo's TP Mazembe knocked off Brazilian powerhouse Internacional two years ago to make the finals, and Ecuador's LDU Quito made it to the finals against Manchester United back in 2008.
So, expecting a jet-lagged Chelsea side to simply walk into the finals here with a victory against a team as talented as Los Rayados—whom have already been in Japan for 10 days—would be foolish.
Monterrey, which was eliminated in this tourney last year in the quarterfinals, is led by manager Victor Vucetich who boasts 12 wins in the 13 finals in which he has coached for the back-to-back North American champions.
Los Rayados may be without injured Chilean striker Humberto Suazo but with players like Argentine winger César Delgado—who scored twice for Monterrey in its win over Ulsan Hyundai—Aldo de Nigris, Neri Cardozo, Walter Ayoví and Jesús Corona, the Blues will undoubtedly have their work cut out for them.
On defense, Monterrey is lead by goalkeeper Jonathan Orozco and center-backs Dárvin Chávez and Hiram Mier are a superb tandem which helped lead Mexico to the gold medal in the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.
Chelsea, which has never won the FIFA Club World Cup, will look to manager Benítez for guidance here .The last time the 52-year-old Spaniard was involved in professional football (2010) he led Inter Milan to the championship.
Injured and not available for the Blues are striker Daniel Sturridge and defenders John Terry and Oriol Romeu, the latter gone for six months after undergoing knee surgery.
One guy who should be ready, and might even get the start in the defensive midfield, is vice-captain Frank Lampard, who could provide some badly needed veteran leadership and some possible goals.
A Chelsea player who may get a start here is Brazilian midfielder Oscar. He may be better suited to this international style of play than that of the rough-and-tumble English Premier League.
And another Blues newbie who may get a chance to really shine in this semifinal is winger Victor Moses, who has played brilliantly in his recent time on the pitch, bringing a nice amount of electricity for the European champions.
Up front, Chelsea will have to hope striker Fernando Torres stays in his current mini-groove and picks up where he left off last week with two goals apiece against FC Nordsjælland in the Champions League and Sunderland in the Premiership.
With so much speed and talent on the pitch, it's hard to see this being a dull, low-scoring affair so playing the over 2½ with the small plus (+110) is recommended.
Who will advance to the FIFA Club World Cup finals against Corinthians?
Anyone underestimating the quality of this Monterrey side will be in for a rude awakening, as this team has proven it deserves to be here and has a core group of skilled footballers on its roster who have been playing together for quite some time, unlike Chelsea which has a number of new parts including a new man in charge.
On Chelsea's behalf, at least it is playing a little better, but wins against FC Nordsjælland and Sunderland are certainly nothing to read too much into.
And the Blues had better be ready for this one or run the risk of being embarrassed a bit and then having to play Al-Ahly in the third-place game on Saturday (Fox Soccer Channel, 2:30 a.m. ET/11:30 p.m. PT).
As Chelsea hopefully learned against Atlético Madrid in the UEFA Super Cup, taking talented opponents too lightly when silverware is on the line can be hazardous to one's health.
PREDICTION: Chelsea 2 Monterrey 1
BET: Over 2½ +110
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