Chelsea open their FIFA Club World Cup marketing campaign on Wednesday with a semifinal conflict with Saudi Arabia’s Al Hilal, seeking to advance into the ultimate for the second time of their historical past.
Whereas the reigning European champions will head into the tie as favourites, there may be cause for them to be cautious of the menace they may face developing towards one of the crucial formidable outfits Asian soccer has to supply.
By successful the AFC Champions League final season, Al Hilal turned the event’s most-successful aspect of all time as they claimed a fourth continental crown, to go along with their file 17 Saudi Skilled League titles.
Having booked their place within the Membership World Cup semis with an emphatic 6-1 second-round win over Al Jazira on Sunday — a brand new event file victory — we take a more in-depth on the Al Hilal gamers that might pose essentially the most issues for Chelsea in Wednesday’s conflict at Al Nahyan Stadium in Abu Dhabi.
Changing a former Juventus star in Sebastian Giovinco because the workforce’s playmaker-in-chief was at all times going to be an enormous ask, however Matheus Pereira has risen to the event in emphatic trend final August.
Regardless of signing halfway via their AFC Champions League marketing campaign, the ex-West Brom man would go on to play a pivotal position within the latter phases of their title success within the No. 10 position.
Dealing with off towards Pereira as soon as once more is more likely to fire up unhealthy reminiscences for Chelsea, given the 25-year-old scored a brace towards them final April in a 5-2 win for West Brom — a primary triumph at Stamford Bridge for his former membership since 1978.
Though a fullback by commerce, Yasser Al-Shahrani has established himself as among the best in his place throughout all of Asia for his potential to not solely do his job defensively but in addition provide a lot going ahead.
Nonetheless solely 29, Al-Shahrani has revamped 200 appearances for Al Hilal and likewise featured for Saudi Arabia on the 2018 FIFA World Cup, the place he carried out admirably developing towards Liverpool star Mohamed Salah because the Inexperienced Falcons got here from behind to finish their marketing campaign with a 2-1 conquer Egypt.
As soon as an automated choice within the Al Hilal beginning XI, Al-Shahrani did briefly lose his place within the aspect and was a substitute in final yr’s AFC Champions League closing, however featured towards Al Jazira on the weekend and is more likely to be relishing the prospect of displaying his value towards high quality opposition within the type of Chelsea.
Barring a short mortgage spell with Villarreal which noticed him make a solitary LaLiga look towards Real Madrid in Could 2018, Salem Al-Dawsari has spent the whole thing of his profession with Al Hilal — which is maybe considerably stunning given his undoubted expertise.
Nonetheless, the 30-year-old has thrived in his homeland and will go down as one in all Saudi Arabia’s best-ever footballers.
Al-Dawsari can lay declare to having scored at a World Cup and likewise received the Most Precious Participant award on the conclusion of final yr’s AFC Champions League event, including to a spectacular record of accolades which additionally consists of 4 Saudi Skilled League crowns and two Asian titles.
Like Pereira, Odion Ighalo is a participant that Chelsea won’t want an introduction to following his time within the Premier League with Watford and Manchester United.
The highest scorer on the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations, Ighalo first moved to Saudi Arabia when he joined Al Shabab from China’s Shanghai Shenhua after his mortgage spell with United got here to an finish.
A powerful file of 21 targets in simply 31 appearances for Al Shabab was sufficient to persuade Al Hilal that the Nigeria worldwide was the person to exchange departed membership icon Bafetimbi Gomis initially of the month, and he made a direct impression by scoring on debut towards Al Jazira on Sunday.