Madrid, Dec 7 (IANS) Already the tournament favourites, Real Madrid are looking for their second title at the Club World Cup, which starts in Japan next Thursday.
Despite the absence of Welsh forward Gareth Bale, one of the stars in manager Zinedine Zidane’s squad, the Spanish side will arrive at the tournament with an extraordinary unbeaten run and a comfortable lead in La Liga.
Winner of the Champions League against Atletico Madrid in Milan and later the European Super Cup against Sevilla in Trondheim, Zidane’s team are looking for their third title of 2016 and the fourth consecutive one for a European team at the Club World Cup.
Since Pep Guardiola’s Bayern Munich beat Morocco outfit Raja Casablanca in the 2013 final, all Club World Cup titles have gone to Europe.
Real Madrid were crowned champions in Morocco against San Lorenzo Argentino and Barcelona did it in the last edition, playing in Japan against Argentina’s River Plate.
The tournament of Japan 2016 presents Colombian Atletico Nacional as a newcomer.
The winner of the Copa Libertadores was to play Chapecoense in the final of the Copa Sudamericana before the plane crash tragedy.
Like Real Madrid, Atletico Nacional will enter the tournament in the semifinals, and both teams may face in the final on December 18.
While Los Blancos have three Intercontinental Cups to their name, Atletico Nacional will attempt to make history and win its first great title.
The tournament will begin this Thursday at the Yokohama International Stadium with a match between the host, Kashima Antlers Nippon, and Auckland City, current Oceania champion and a regular participant in the Club World Cup.
The winner of that game will face on December 11 in the quarter-finals, to be played in Osaka, with Mamelodi Sundowns, the African champions.
Just before that, in the first clash of the last eight stage, Asian champions Jeonbuk Hyundai will face Club America.