This weekend marks a huge window of qualifying for the FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2018. Come Saturday evening, we will know six of the seven teams who will be taking the field in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain from 12-22 December.
On Friday night, Espérance Sportive de Tunis, from Tunisia and Egyptian giants Al Ahly SC resume their battle in the CAF Champions League. With Al Ahly leading 3-1 from the first leg in Egypt, the match in Tunisian capital Tunis promises to be an intriguing encounter.
The following evening, Persepolis FC host Japan’s Kashima Antlers in the second leg of the AFC Champions League final, with Kashima leading 2-0 after the first leg.
A weekend of intense action will be rounded off in the early hours of Sunday morning when Argentinian duo Club Atlético Boca Juniors and Club Atlético River Plate take their fierce domestic ‘Supeclasico’ rivalry into a Copa Libertadores final for the first time.
“The FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2018 will be in the spotlight on three continents this weekend with the African and Asian qualifiers being decided. By Sunday, we will be just 90 minutes away from knowing the full line-up of teams for the tournament in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain next month, following the first leg of the Copa Libertadores final in South America. Outside of the tournament itself, it doesn’t really get more exciting for football fans,” His Excellency Aref Hamed Al Awani, Tournament Director, FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2018 Local Organizing Committee said.
“The schedule is really taking shape and it already promises to be an unforgettable experience with some of the biggest club sides in the world confirmed. Fans should secure their seats to see the world’s best club sides in action.”
The Tunisian side will be looking for home support to help them mount a memorable comeback to win their third African confederation title. Their last triumph was in 2011. The club also appeared in the CAF Champions League final in 2012, when they lost to Al Ahly.
Al Ahly though will be hoping they have a big enough lead to hold on and claim the crown of the kings of Africa for the ninth time – and first since 2013 - to secure their first appearance at the FIFA Club World Cup since 2012, when they finished fourth.
Friday’s game promises to be a hotly-contested affair in what has become something of a CAF classic fixture over the years with the pair having met 14 times in the competition.
The winners will book their spot in the quarter-finals of the seven-team FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2018 where they will face the winners of the tournament’s opening match between Al Ain FC and Team Wellington FC, the OFC Champions League winners.
Meanwhile, Persepolis are playing in their first Asian continental final, and will look to overturn a 2-0 deficit when they host Japan’s Kashima Antlers in the AFC Champions League final second leg.
Kashima will be confident they have enough of a lead to hold on and secure a return to the FIFA Club World Cup and will hope to go one better than in 2016, where they lost 4-2 to Real Madrid CF in the final on penalties.
The winners of AFC Champions League will book their tickets to the UAE where they will face Mexico’s reigning CONCACAF champions CD Guadalajara. They have the added incentive of knowing that qualification could set up an epic semi-final clash with reigning World Club champions Real Madrid.
Boca Juniors, who beat Brazil’s Palmeiras in the semis to secure their place in the final of the CONMEBOL confederation’s championship, host the first leg of their final against fierce rivals River Plate on Sunday at their famous Alberto J. Armando Stadium, known in Buenos Aires as La Bombonera. Boca will be going for a first continental crown since 2007 which also coincided with their last FIFA Club World Cup outing – a 4-2 loss to Manchester United in the final.
River Plate are playing to secure their first Copa crown since 2015. Their last appearance at the FIFA Club World Cup came in the same year where they lost 3-0 in the final to Barcelona.
Boca, known as ‘Los Xeneizes’, will be playing in their 11th Libertadores final. With seven wins, they are just one short of equalling Independiente’s record title haul of seven. For their part, River Plate, known as ‘Los Millonarios’ will be contesting their sixth decider and hoping to be crowned continental champions for the fourth time.
The Copa champions will enter the FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2018 at the semi-final, where they will face the CAF champions, Al Ain FC or Team Wellington FC.
Tickets, starting from AED 25 are selling fast. Get yours here: http://fifacwc.ae/tickets/