Marrakech and Agadir will play host to the FIFA Club World Cup semi-finals this week, as Bayern Munich square off against Guangzhou Evergrande and Atletico Mineiro take on tournament underdogs Raja Casablanca.
For both Bayern and Atletico, the semi-final will mark their first appearance in this year’s tournament after both clubs received a bye to the final four.
Raja booked their place in the semi-final with wins over Auckland City and CF Monterrey, the latter of which came after extra time, while Guangzhou saw off Al Ahly, 2-0.
|Date, K/O (GMT)||Venue||Fixture||Prediction|
|Dec. 17, 19:30||Agadir||Guangzhou Evergrande vs. Bayern Munich||1-5|
|Dec. 18, 19:30||Marrakech||Raja Casablanca vs. Atletico Mineiro||1-3|
Schedule via fifa.com
Raja Casablanca vs. Atletico Mineiro
Botola Pro champions Raja, the club representing the host nation, have had something of a dream run in their home country.
Buoyed on by a raucous home support, Raja overcame their first two hurdles, but Atletico Mineiro will pose an entirely different challenge to that of Auckland and Monterrey.
Atletico are better technically, and head coach Cuca has more talented personnel at his disposal than his counterpart, Faouzi Benzarti.
There will be many recognisable faces lining out for the Copa Libertadores champions, including Ronaldinho, Gilberto Silva, Jo, Rever and Diego Tardelli.
The Brazilian outfit saw off South America’s finest to book their place in Morocco, and they will be firm favourites to advance to the final.
Guangzhou Evergrande vs. Bayern Munich
Both sides are making their first appearance at the Club World Cup, but expect the European champions to move comfortably through to the final.
Marcello Lippi has developed Guangzhou into an organised and efficient unit, but they are by no means one-dimensional. The Brazilian trio of Elkeson, Dario Conca and Muriqui, who was named AFC International Player of the Year, give the Chinese side their flair and Bayern will be wary of the threat they possess.
Having said that, Bayern have talent in abundance. From Nos. 1 to 11, the German champions ooze class, and Guangzhou should not pose them with too many problems.
What does Bayern winger Franck Ribery know about Guangzhou? “To be honest, next to nothing,” the Frenchman told the official Bundesliga website. “But that’s normal. We’ll still concentrate on our strengths and try to impose our game. If we play like we have done in the last few weeks, then we’ll pass the test in Morocco.”
Franck Ribery: Bayern Munich
Ribery has been the standout player on Europe’s standout team this year.
The Frenchman was central to Bayern’s unprecedented treble during the 2012/13 season, and this campaign he has picked up where he left off. The winger has scored 15 times for club and country while assisting a further 11 goals.
The Ballon d’Or nominee will be hoping to seal a memorable year by picking up a fifth team trophy in North Africa.
Zheng Zhi: Guangzhou Evergrande
Zheng Zhi became the first Chinese player in over a decade to be crowned AFC Player of the Year.
The Brazilians may provide the creative flair, but the 33-year-old central midfielder makes the whole operation tick.
The Chinese captain is the engine of the side, and he will need to be at the peak of his powers if Guangzhou are to trouble Bayern.
Ronaldinho: Atletico Mineiro
While Ronaldinho may no longer be in his prime, he still possesses the ability to bamboozle the best.
The attacking midfielder has scored seven goals and assisted a further two for Atletico in the Brasileirao this season.
Ronaldinho, as always, will play as if he has nothing to lose. Coming up against a player like him will be a whole new experience for the Raja Casablanca players.
Mohsine Moutaouali: Raja Casablanca
Moutouali has been inspirational in Raja’s opening two wins of the tournament. The Botola Pro champions have embraced the underdog tag, and they will be gunning for a third upset in succession when they face Atletico.
The skipper has thrived in front of his home crowd, driving his team forward from midfield with two great displays.