This year’s Club World Cup showpiece has got underway out in Abu Dhabi, with European champions Chelsea set to enter the competition on Wednesday night.
The annual event, which pits the champions of the six different FIFA confederations against one another, began when hosts Al Jazira recorded a 4-1 victory over Oceania club Pirae in the first round last Thursday.
After the weekend’s second-round fixtures, Thomas Tuchel’s Blues will now come into the tournament to contest one of this week’s two semi-finals.
A place in Saturday’s final will be up for grabs over the coming days, and ahead of the last-four ties Sportsmail are on hand with everything you need to know about the three teams Chelsea could face in the Middle East.
Chelsea are set to enter the Club World Cup out in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday night
Chelsea’s first opponents in Abu Dhabi will be Al-Hilal, who qualified for the Club World Cup by claiming victory in last season’s Asian Champions League.
The Riyadh outfit, who are managed by former Monaco boss Leonardo Jardim, currently sit fourth in the Saudi Professional League – and they have a few familiar faces in their ranks.
Ex-Manchester United and Watford striker Odion Ighalo is now at Jardim’s disposal after completing a move from city rivals Al Shabab last month, while former West Brom and Watford stars Matheus Pereira and Andre Carrillo are also in the side.
Their semi-final opponents Al-Hilal have ex-Man Utd striker Odion Ighalo in their ranks
The Asian club also have ex-West Brom and Watford men Matheus Pereira and Andre Carrillo
Ighalo, who only left United to join Al Shabab last year, is the Saudi Pro League’s top scorer after bagging 13 goals in 19 appearances this season.
The Nigeria striker hit the ground running on his debut in Sunday’s second-round showdown with Al Jazira, opening the scoring in a comprehensive 6-1 victory for Al-Hilal.
Pereira and Carrillo also got on the scoresheet for the Asian champions, meaning all three former Premier League players will be full of confidence heading into their meeting with Chelsea.
The Blues will have to be on point defensively if they want to reach Saturday’s final, as Jardim’s men have registered 21 goals in their last seven matches in all competitions.
Leonardo Jardim’s side have bagged 21 goals in their last seven matches in all competitions
Before Chelsea and Al-Hilal lock horns, Copa Libertadores winners Palmeiras will contest the first of this week’s semi-finals against African champions Al Ahly on Tuesday.
Like the Blues, Palmeiras are entering the competition at the last-four stage, making their way to Abu Dhabi after receiving a buoyant send-off from hundreds of their supporters last Thursday.
Abel Ferreira’s side finished third in the Brazilian Série A last season, 18 points behind runaway leaders Atletico Mineiro after winning just 20 of their 38 matches, but they booked their place at the Club World Cup by toppling Flamengo in the Copa Libertadores showpiece.
Palmeiras enter the tournament this week after receiving a buoyant send-off from their fans
Brazilian midfielder Raphael Veiga is their key man to look out for in the Middle East
Brazilian midfielder Raphael Veiga, who has bagged 36 goals in his last 107 appearances, is their key man to look out for in the Middle East, while compatriot striker Rony is another important member of Ferreira’s squad with 23 goals to show for his 98 Palmeiras outings.
Former AC Milan stars Luiz Adriano (striker) and Gustavo Gomez (defender) will also be in action for the Sao Paulo club in Abu Dhabi.
Palmeiras only got their 2022 season up in running at the end of January, winning three of their first four matches in Sao Paulo’s Campeonato Paulista tournament and scoring seven goals in the process.
Palmeiras will be going head to head with Al Ahly for a place in Saturday’s final, the Egyptian Premier League side who came out on top in last season’s African Champions League.
The Cairo-based club saw off CONCACAF champions Monterrey in their second-round outing at the weekend, with Mohamed Hany bagging the only goal of the game at the Al Nahyan Stadium.
They have a former Premier League man in their ranks, having signed South Africa striker Percy Tau from Brighton back in the summer.
Tau, who was only afforded six appearances during his disappointing stint at the Amex, has hit the ground running in Egypt, scoring five goals in his first eight matches this term.
African champions Al Ahly beat Monterrey to reach the semi-final of the competition
The 27-year-old’s impressive return has helped Pitso Mosimane’s men occupy top spot in the Egyptian Premier League; taking 19 points from a possible 21 and scoring 19 goals in the process.
Mosimane will be without No 1 goalkeeper Mohamed El Shenawy against Palmeiras, however, as the club captain only wrapped up his Africa Cup of Nations campaign with Egypt on Sunday night.
But El Shenawy is not the only Al Ahly star who competed for Egypt at the major tournament; with Amr El Solia, Hamdy Fathy, Mohamed Sherif, Ayman Ashraf, and Akram Tawfik also set to miss Tuesday’s Club World Cup semi-final.
Ex-Brighton striker Percy Tau has scored five goals in eight games for them this season
But they will be without goalkeeper Mohamed El Shenawy, who is yet to return from AFCON
How did Chelsea fare in 2012?
Chelsea will be looking to beat all three teams to their first ever Club World Cup title over the next five days.
It is not the west London club’s debut appearance at the tournament, having also taken part when they clinched their maiden Champions League back in 2012.
Yet, their first Club World Cup outing did not go to plan in Japan.
Amidst a frustating start to the interim reign of Rafa Benitez, who had only replaced sacked boss Roberto di Matteo at Stamford Bridge one month earlier, Chelsea were dealt further disappointment in the final after seeing off Monterrey in the last four.
Chelsea came up short in their only other appearance at the Club World Cup back in 2012
Paulo Guerrero’s goal handed Corinthians a famous 1-0 victory over Benitez’s side in Yokohama, coming as a major blow to the European champions after they were also beaten 4-1 by Atletico Madrid in the UEFA Super Cup.
Fortunately for Benitez, he ended his brief tenure in SW6 on a high note, guiding the club to a third-place Premier League finish and winning the Europa League.
Though afailing to prevail 10 years ago, Chelsea will be desperate to get their hands on the Club World Cup for the very first time this week.