20 December 2019 16:38
Liverpool look set to welcome Virgil van Dijk back as they bid to become world champions for the first time by beating Flamengo in the Fifa Club World Cup final on Saturday. The Dutchman missed the midweek semi-final victory over Monterrey due to illness, with midfielder Jordan Henderson taking his place, but has returned to training since and should be available to face the Copa Libertadores champions. It looks unlikely that Gini Wijnaldum will be ready as he continues to nurse a muscle strain, but Jurgen Klopp is expected to restore a number of big guns who failed to make the starting XI on Wednesday - namely Trent Alexander- Arnold, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane. Liverpool predicted lineup (4-3-3): Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Gomez, Van Dijk, Robertson; Henderson, Milner, Keita; Salah, Firmino, Mane South American powerhouses like Flamengo take competitions like the Club World Cup very seriously. To this day fans of the Brazilian club, who the Reds will face off against on Saturday evening in the final of FIFA's competition, still sing about the time in December 1981 when they beat Bob Paisley's famous European Cup-winning side 3-0 in the forerunner to this tournament - the Intercontinental Cup. Attitude from European clubs back then towards this competition was not really one to be admired but in recent years that has changed completely and Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool are no exception.
It is the first time the Reds have been invited to play in the competition since 2005 and they have gone out to Qatar with the full power of their mighty squad in a bid to claim the trophy for the first time in their illustrious 127-year history. They are stocked with world-class players including Brazil No.1 Alisson and the goalkeeper understands the team he will face hailing from his own country put great importance on the tie. The shot-stopper, who played superbly against Monterrey to help Liverpool come through the semi-final match 2-1, has told his team-mates just how big this is for Flamengo while also explaining that the Reds are taking it very seriously too. "It's big for Brazilians but I think it's bigger for the people playing in it," Alisson said. "Flamengo won the Copa Libertagores and we won the Champions League while many other clubs won big competitions too and that's why we are here.
Photos by John and Andrew Powell The Brazilian giants are preparing for the final of the FIFA Club World Cup--against opponents that, given the choice, they would have handpicked. On Tuesday night, following their 3-1 semi-final win over Al Hilal of Saudi Arabia, I was on a Brazilian TV show that asked the following question to Flamengo fans; would you prefer Monterrey or Liverpool in the final? In theory, Monterrey would be easier, boosting Flamengo's chances of rounding off a magical year with the world title. From the South American point of view, the charm and (immense) appeal of the Club World Cup is the opportunity to have a crack at the European champions. To Flamengo it is even more appealing when that European opponent is Liverpool.
In the absence of Virgil van Dijk, the Reds' backline often looked shambolic. Flamengo have rolled over plenty of deep-lying Brazilian teams. This was part of the story against Argentina's River Plate in the final of the Copa Libertadores, and again on Tuesday against Al Hilal, especially in the first half-hour. Over recent months the weaker side of the Flamengo defence has been down their right, in the space between and behind full-back Rafinha and centre-back Rodrigo Caio, but now the other flank looks vulnerable. But if they can hold firm, and especially if Van Dijk is missing, then they just might give their fans something to sing about. Virgil van Dijk has returned to training with Liverpool in Qatar ahead of the Club World Cup final against Flamengo. The Netherlands centre-back missed Wednesday's tight semi-final win over Monterrey in Doha through illness, forcing Jordan Henderson to play in the middle of defence in a Reds' side depleted by injury problems. Georginio Wijnaldum also missed the 2-1 victory and did not feature in the first training session on Friday, However, Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has confirmed the midfielder took part in training later in the day. Illness kept Virgil van Dijk out of Club World Cup action in midweek When asked if Van Dijk and Wijnaldum are available for Saturday's final, Klopp said: "We will see on both things actually. Dutch centre-back Sepp van den Berg is an option for Klopp if Van Dijk is unable to face Flamengo. The 18-year-old travelled to Qatar on Wednesday after playing in the 5-0 defeat to Aston Villa in the Carabao Cup the previous evening. Youngster Sepp van den Berg flew out to Qatar after featuring for Liverpool's U23 side against Aston Villa in the Carabao Cup Lallana said: "We are going to need every member of this squad if we are going to be successful this year, and being successful is winning this competition, going for the league, being successful in the Champions League." Klopp believes European clubs should place a higher value on the Club World Cup, which is due to expand to a 24-team tournament in 2021. "We are here and my team wants to win the competition," said Klopp. "We know that is very difficult because the other team is really, really good but that's how it is with big competitions.