Source: Imago Images
Source: Imago Images

The first and last chance for Manchester City

Champions League OlyBet 21.12.2023

It would certainly be somewhat appropriate if Manchester City, the Abu Dhabi-backed nouveau riche behemoth, lifted the last-ever “old” FIFA Club World Cup. Make no mistake: they are expected to do so.

The Champions League winner almost always is. European sides have lifted the last ten trophies, ever since Chelsea lost to Corinthians in 2012. They might have been an outlier, a team that overcame the odds to triumph in Europe in the first place before sacking the winning coach four months into the new season.

But every team since then has been a worthy representative of the level of European competition (with, maybe, again, the exception of Chelsea (sorry, fans) in 2021). Bayern Munich in 2013 and 2020, Real Madrid five times, Liverpool in 2019, and Barcelona in 2015 – all of them can probably claim to have been the best team in the world during that period of time.

The same is now quite universally accepted about Manchester City. The South American champions are usually considered the closest competitor at the Club World Cup, although they have made just four of the last eight finals; it would take a very special day from the other sides to steal the show. The gap is undeniable.

Which is why FIFA is going to revamp the CWC. The next edition will be held in the summer of 2025 as a replacement for the Confederations Cup, and 32 teams will play over a one-month period in June and July. FIFA proposed the idea as early as 2016, was criticized by (almost) everyone, and still went ahead with it. Money talks. City would indeed be a symbolic winner for the last traditional one.

Manchester City lineup ahead of their FIFA Club World Cup semi-final against Urawa Reds. Source: Imago Images

With Euros in 2024, the new CWC in 2025, and a 48-team World Cup awaiting in 2026, this might be the closest thing to slavery the Western world has seen since the United Nations abolished it in 1948. This is simply too much. Representing their nation is still the most important thing for many footballers, but like us, they also need to earn their paychecks.

Imagine a guy like Kevin De Bruyne, 34 in two years, finishing the CWC in mid-July only to start the new Premier League season in early August. The top players will have very little rest for three straight years, and who knows what international superleague cup will be invented by 2027. It might be better to stay in the present for now.

All times listed below are in Eastern European Standard Time (GMT+2).

Manchester City – Fluminense

Friday 20:00

City breezed past Japanese club Urawa Red Diamonds in the semi-final, but their form has not been as hot at home, having won just three of their last eight games before flying out to Saudi Arabia. The merciless machine has shown sighs of fragility.

Brazilian side Fluminense dispatched Al Ahly (Egypt) in the other semi. It is their first overseas rodeo after their maiden Copa Libertadores triumph. They have some familiar names on their roster though: long-time Real Madrid left-back Marcelo, midfield hardman Felipe Melo, and Ganso, who was once considered to be as talented as Neymar.

Both teams play a similar style, leading the Premier League and Brazilian Serie A respectively in possession (62% for both), number of successful passes (574-487 per game in favour of City) and passing accuracy (90%-88% in favour of Fluminense).
Brazilian clubs have lost their last three finals in the competition in 2017, 2019, and 2022, but the latter two were decided in extra time while one goal was enough for Real Madrid in 2017. In total, the Brazilians have won three and lost four of the finals they have participated in since 2005.

City mastermind Pep Guardiola has not lost a CWC game in three attempts; in 2009 and 2011, he triumphed with Barcelona, before repeating the achievement with Bayern Munich in 2013. His sides have scored 18 goals (3 per game) and allowed just two (0.33 per game) before 2023, and the pattern continued with a 3-0 win over the Red Diamonds.


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