Santos take on Barcelona in the final of the Club World Cup today, pitting Lionel Messi against Neymar in what is being billed as a clash between two of the finest players on the planet.
The European champions will be favourites against the Brazilians, who were sublime going forward but edgy in their semi-final 3-1 defeat of Japanese side Kashiwa Reysol. There was no such trouble for the Catalans, who thrashed Qatari side Al Sadd 4-0 to set up the highly anticipated showdown with the South American champions and their highly rated young striker Neymar.
Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola said he had told his players to expect Santos to play an attacking game.
“They’re likely to counter-attack and are dangerous because of Neymar,” said Guardiola, also stressing that Santos were more than just their 19-year-old talisman.
Midfielder Cesc Fabregas reiterated his coach’s views.
“I don’t think about Neymar only, I think about Santos,” he said. “He’s an excellent player, but he’s not the only one we’ll face. He can play in any team in the world. We’ll welcome him if he ever plays for Barcelona, but he’s an enemy tomorrow.”
Meanwhile, Santos coach Muricy Ramalho was aware that the Catalan giants will start as favourites.
“I’ll not be the beast who limits Barcelona’s ball possession,” he said. “Nobody can manage this. We have to put pressure on them and gamble on some things happening – like a stroke of genius from Neymar.”
Published in The Express Tribune, December 18th, 2011.
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