Liverpool are about to enter the busiest stretch of the season, including matches in four separate competitions: the Premier League, the Champions League, the FA League Cup, and the FIFA Club World Cup. While the match dates for all competitions were finalized last month - including two games in less than 24 hours - the full field for the Club World Cup was not set until today.
Liverpool’s side of the bracket was finalized last month, but the opposite side still had two open spots. Al-Hilal of Saudi Arabia punched their ticket into the Club World Cup with a 2-0 win over Urawa Red Diamonds in the AFC Champions League. Al-Hilal will enter in the second round against Espérance Sportive de Tunis. The winner of that match will see CR Flamengo of Brazil.
Flamengo got a late brace from Gabriel Barbosa for a 2-1 win over River Plate in a hotly contested Copa Libertadores match yesterday. Both teams had a man sent off, with the match hero Barbosa earning a second yellow for sarcastic applause directed at the referee (we’ve all been there Gabriel).
Whatever your views are about the Club World Cup - and we’ll leave a reminder of the issues with the host country as a refresher - it’s another chance for Liverpool to earn some hardware. The Red’s have already taken home the UEFA Super Cup, and will be favorites for their first Club World Cup trophy as well. Liverpool were runners up to São Paulo FC in 2005. With only two matches needed to take home the trophy, the Reds are likely to take as strong squad to the competition, leaving the kids at home to take on Aston Villa in the FA Cup.