Real Madrid vs Gremio – Saturday, December 16, 17:00 GMT/18:00 CET – Hazza bin Zayed Stadium, Al Ain, United Arab Emirates.
Loved in South America undervalued in Europe the FIFA Club World Cup is in many ways a controversial tournament. Previously known as the Intercontinental Cup the competition only included the champions of Europe and South America. FIFA then took on the championship in 2000, but just established the current format that consists of the six continental champions plus the host in 2005.
The South American and European champions enter the stage in the semifinals, and both Real Madrid and Gremio struggled somewhat to get through to the final. Drawn against host Al-Jazira, Real Madrid struggled, and Romarinho even brought the club from the United Arab Emirates in front. Perhaps Real underestimated their opponent, or it was due to the primarily rotated side, but it was only in the second half that Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale managed to score the goals that would see Real victorious.
Meeting them in the final will be the freshly crowned Copa Libertadores champions Gremio from Porto Alegre. But like Real Gremio struggled somewhat in the semifinal—facing Mexican side Pachuca it took Gremio 120 minutes and a red card to Victor Guzman to finally bring down the CONCACAF Champions League winners.
Granted on paper Gremio faced the more difficult of the two sides. But Pachuca have been struggling in Liga MX and were unable to reach the Liguilla (the playoffs in Mexico) for two half-seasons in a row. But Pachuca put in an intense work rate, and it will be interesting to see how much the 120 minutes against a hard-working Mexican side will affect Gremio in the final.
Real Madrid vs Gremio – Player to look out for:
Toni Kroos #8 – Real Madrid
Toni Kroos is aiming for his fourth FIFA Club World Cup title. The German midfield maestro has previously won the title with Bayern München in 2013 as well as with Real Madrid in 2014 and 2016. Rested in the semifinal against Al-Jazira Real Madrid showed that they lack stability in midfield without the German national team player. Kroos, in fact, might be one of the most undervalued players in world football. A key player in both Germany and Real there is not a single major title the central midfielder has not won, but even more importantly he has always been the critical component of every team’s success. Shunted at Bayern to a certain extent the Bavarians did not recognise his value until it was too late, now at Real, he is somewhat in the shadow of Cristiano Ronaldo, but at the same time there is no doubt that he is to a significant extend more valuable to the overall team than the Portuguese striker.
Luan Vieira #7 – Gremio Porto Alegrense
There is not much to know about Luan, the new Ronaldinho; we could have possibly missed in our scouting report. The only thing we must highlight is that not moving to Spartak was the right call in the end. The 24-year-old scored a fantastic goal in the Copa Libertadores against Lanus to secure the title for his side. Not as quick as the average captivating Brazilian, Luan relies on elegance and anticipation to always look a couple of seconds ahead of his rivals. His superior quality is evident, and it would be a surprise if Gremio managed to keep him beyond this winter. Real Madrid’s primary task will be to stop Luan in the semi-finals, for in him lies Gremio’s most dangerous attacking resource.
Real Madrid vs Gremio – Match Stats
- Saturday’s duel will be the third Club World Cup final to pit a Spanish team against a Brazilian side.
- Previously, Internacional beat Barcelona 1-0 in 2006, but the Catalans got their own back five years later, resoundingly defeating Santos 4-0.
- Real Madrid have, in fact, played a team from Brazil once before in the tournament: they drew 2-2 with Corinthians in the inaugural edition in 2000.
Futbolgrad Network Prediction: Real Madrid vs Gremio 3-0
Real Madrid vs Gremio – Possible Lineups
Keylor Navas – Marcelo, Varane, Sergio Ramos, Carvajal – Kroos, Casemiro, Modrić – Ronaldo, Benzema, Isco
Coach: Zinedine Zidane
Gremio Porto Alegrense
Grohe – Edilson, Geromel, Kannemann, Cortez – Jailson, Michel – Ramiro, Luan, Fernandinho – Barrios
Coach: Renato Portaluppi
Manuel Veth is the owner and Editor in Chief of the Futbolgrad Network. He also works as a freelance journalist and social media editor at Bundesliga.com. He holds a Doctorate of Philosophy in History from King’s College London, and his thesis is titled: “Selling the People’s Game: Football’s transition from Communism to Capitalism in the Soviet Union and its Successor States,” which will be available in print soon. Originally from Munich, Manuel has lived in Amsterdam, Kyiv, Moscow, Tbilisi, London, and currently is located in Victoria BC, Canada. Follow Manuel on Twitter @ManuelVeth.