For Chelsea to defeat Corinthians in the FIFA Club World Cup final on Sunday, it will have to try its hardest keep talented midfielder Paulinho (right) in check.
Who: Chelsea vs. Corinthians
What: FIFA Club World Cup final
Where: International Stadium Yokohama, Yokohama, Japan
When: Sunday, December 16, 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 Two, BBC HD (UK)
Worldwide Live Streams and TV Channels: LiveSoccerTV.com
3-Way Odds: Chelsea -133, Corinthians +350, Draw +250
Total: Over 2½ -117, Under 2½ -117
Decimal Odds: Chelsea 1.75, Corinthians 4.50, Draw 3.50
Decimal Total: Over 2½ 1.85, Under 2½ 1.85
Fractional Odds: Chelsea 3/4, Corinthians 7/2, Draw 5/2
Fractional Total: Over 2½ 17/20, Under 2½ 17/20
Source: sportsbook.com (Curaçao, Netherlands Antilles)
It certainly won't cure all that ails them, but a win by Chelsea over Corinthians in Sunday's FIFA Club World Cup final in Yokohama, Japan will go a long way to making the Blues and their fans feel a whole lot better about things this holiday season.
Since winning the Champions League in dramatic fashion May, Chelsea's quest for silverware has taken a turn for the worse with losses in the Community Shield (Manchester City), the UEFA Super Cup (Atlético Madrid) and elimination from the prestigious UEFA Champions League tournament last week.
But the Blues—who have never won the FIFA Club World Cup—will have their work cut out for them against Copa Libertadores winner and Brazilian giants Corinthians who made it to this championship game by beating African champions Al-Ahly of Egypt, 1-0 on Wednesday.
Who will win Sunday's FIFA Club World Cup?
Chelsea advanced to this final by defeating CONCACAF champions Monterrey, 3-1, on Thursday as Fernando Torres and Juan Mata scored goals and an own goal by Los Rayados' Dárvin Chávez pretty much sealed the Mexican side's fate.
Corinthians—who have won their state championship a record 26 times and the Brasileirão five times—are making their first appearance in the FIFA Club World Cup as South American champions but did host, and actually won the tournament in 2000 when it defeated fellow countrymen Vasco da Gama, 4-3 on penalty kicks.
Like European champions Chelsea, Corinthians employs a 4-2-3-1 tactical formation, and, also like the Blues, Timão has a worldwide fan following, said to be over 30 million strong.
And with an estimated 20,000 of those rabid fans set to be at International Stadium Yokohama for Sunday's final, the crowd in Yokohama will no doubt seem to be pulling for the South American club.
The player who drives Corinthians is 24-year-old central midfielder Paulinho—José Paulo Bezerra Maciel Júnior for long if you'll be sending him a Christmas card—a smart player who stays back when needed and rushes forward on the offensive attack creating nightmares for opposition's defenses.
In 85 appearances for Timão, Paulinho—a box-to-box midfielder in the mold of Chelsea's Frank Lampard—has never once been sent off and never misses a match.
Defensively for the tightly-shaped Corinthians and manager Tite, right back Alessandro, left back Fábio Santos and defensive midfielder Ralf support goalkeeper Cássio.
Up front, Corinthians attack features talents like Juan Manuel Martínez, Emerson and Peruvian center-forward Paolo Guerrero, so Chelsea's defense will have to be at its best to combat this deep and clever team looking to bring the title back to São Paulo.
Chelsea and new interim manager Rafael Benítez will look to make it four straight wins in this one after the English Premier League club suffered through weeks of below-average play, causing the ouster of beloved manager Roberto Di Matteo.
Offensively, the Blues will have to hope much-maligned striker Fernando Torres keeps up his recent good form and that advanced midfielders Mata, Eden Hazard, Victor Moses and Oscar—a Brazilian himself—do their part to keep Timão's defense busy.
On defense, Benítez and the Blues will likely again start Ashley Cole, Gary Cahill, Branislav Ivanović and César Azpilicueta in the back and will probably use Brazilian David Luiz again in the holding midfield alongside John Obi Mikel.
If Chelsea are to beat Corinthians, it will have to do so without the services of captain John Terry, Daniel Sturridge and Oriol Romeu, all of whom are injured.
Although many football fans worldwide don't put much emphasis or significance on the FIFA Club World Cup, it is a huge deal in South America, whose quality clubs often get overshadowed in the press by the European super clubs in the EPL, La Liga, Serie A and Bundesliga, among others.
And now, suddenly, the Club World Cup is also a very big thing for the tourney's European representatives, Chelsea, who could use a boost of confidence now like a nomad in the Sahara Desert could use water.
With such an unexpected chip on its collective shoulder right now, Chelsea—which played a really impressive game in its semifinal compared to Corinthians' lackluster showing in its semifinal win—and goalkeeper Petr Čech should rise to the occasion and make things a little better for at least the time being in west London.
This one will be hard-fought and close, but expect Chelsea to continue to play better defense under Benítez and become the sixth straight European winner of this tournament featuring the winners of FIFA's six confederations and a host nation team.
So what do you think will happen? If so inclined, please let me know how you think this one will play out in the comment section below. And enjoy the game.
PREDICTION: Chelsea 2 Corinthians 1
BETS: Chelsea -133, Over 2½ -117
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