Real Madrid V.S. the UAE’s Al-Ain; Who Will Win?
Real Madrid will face UAE side Al-Ain in the Club World Cup final after a Gareth Bale hat-trick inspired them to victory over Kashima Antlers. It was a comfortable semi-final clash for Santiago Solari’s men and a late Shoma Doi goal could not take the gloss off a 3-1 win. Los Blancos fielded a full-strength starting 11 for that game and the European champions are the overwhelming favourites to lift the cup. Al Ain pulled off a fantastic result in vanquishing River Plate in their semi-final, but they face an extremely difficult task in trying to contain Real Madrid.
It was heartbreak for River Plate, who got the better of countrymen Boca Juniors in a tempestuous Copa Libertadores final earlier this month to qualify for this tournament. They were expected to beat Al-Ain, but it finished 2-2 and the Abu Dhabi-based side won the penalty shootout. Their reward is a glamorous fixture against a Real Madrid side led by FIFA World Player of the Year Luka Modric. He anchors an all-star midfield also containing Toni Kroos, Isco and Casemiro, while Sergio Ramos, Raphael Varane and Thibaut Courtous complete a strong spine.
Real Madrid may have lost star man Cristiano Ronaldo in the summer, but Bale and Karim Benzema are now in good form up front, and Marco Ansensio and Lucas Vazquez are also dangerous. It is therefore easy to see why Real Madrid are the clear favourites to win this game with leading and well respected betting sites such as sportsbetting.ag. They have won the Champions League in Europe for three years in a row and now they are bidding to complete a treble of Club World Cups too.
They beat Gremio of Brazil in last year’s final and they picked up a 4-2 extra-time victory over Kashima Antlers in 2016. Spanish teams have won this tournament for the past four years, as Barcelona beat River Plate 3-0 in 2015 and Real Madrid beat San Lorenzo 2-0 in 2014. You have to go back to 2012 for the last time a European side failed to lift this trophy, when Corinthians beat Chelsea 1-0. But that is the only time since 2007 that a non-European team has won it, so Al-Ain really faces an uphill struggle in this contest.
Yet they will take confidence from their strong performance against River Plate, who were coming off the back of an epic two-legged Copa Libertadores victory. Al-Ain has some decent players, including 32-year-old Swedish forward Marcus Berg. He has banged in 19 goals in 67 games for his country, and he has 35 goals in 32 games for Al-Ain since joining them in 2017. Brazilian winger Caio is also worth looking out for, but overall this looks like a total mismatch.
Transfer market values the Al-Ain squad at £14 million, while Real Madrid’s is valued at more than £1 billion. Bale alone has a value of £90 million, as do Isco and Marco Asensio, while backup goalkeeper Keylor Navas is valued higher than the entire Al-Ain squad put together. If Real Madrid plays anywhere close to their potential, they should win this one with ease, and as such Al-Ain are 14/1 underdogs. Real Madrid has had a tumultuous season after Ronaldo and legendary coach Zinedine Zidane left. The new manager, Julen Lopetegui, was quickly axed following a dismal run of form, and Solari is now trying to turn things around. A trophy would help galvanise the squad and boost players’ morale, so it is easy to imagine them taking this game seriously, fielding another strong team and going on to clinch a comfortable victory.