Chelsea vs Palmeiras Preview: One game from glory

Romelu Lukaku celebrates giving Chelsea the lead in the Blues’ semi-final match against Al Hilal

This is it. A chance for Thomas Tuchel and Chelsea to make history and lead the club to a maiden Club World Cup. However, Saturday’s final against Palmeiras will no doubt mean a lot to the Blues as victory over the Brazilian side would not only add another trophy to the collection but would mean Chelsea will have won every possible honour available to them. However, the club have been in this position before and know that it won’t be as easy as people would expect.

Ten years ago, the Blues and interim manager at the time Rafa Benitez headed to Japan to partake in the 2012 edition of the Club World Cup but came up short in the final to another Brazilian side in Corinthians. Tuchel will be hoping history doesn’t repeat itself and help guide Chelsea to victory in Abu Dhabi. It’s Champions League winners Chelsea vs Copa Libertadores winners Palmeiras in the final of the Club World Cup.

Chelsea and the Club World Cup: We’ve been here before

Chelsea fans all know the pain and heartache the club faced in December of 2012 when the Blues came so close yet so far to winning the Club World Cup. Having won their first ever Champions League crown in May 2012, beating Bayern Munich on penalties in their own backyard, the club would play in their first ever Club World Cup later that year.

Fast forward to December and the Blues were in the midst of a difficult 2012/2013 campaign. The Champions League holders had sacked Roberto Di Matteo just months after masterminding Chelsea to victory in Munich and made the controversial appointment of former Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez on an interim basis. As well as this, the club were knocked out of the Champions League at the group stage and were very much struggling in the Premier League title race.

However, a trip to Japan just before Christmas was exactly the break Chelsea were needing and it was also an opportunity to pick up some silverware to help get some confidence back into a struggling Blues squad. Rafa Benitez’s side joined the competition at the semi-final stage and took on Monterrey of Mexico. The West Londoners convincingly won 3-1 thanks to goals from Juan Mata, Fernando Torres and an own goal from Darvin Chavez which booked their place in the final.

Awaiting Chelsea in the final was Brazilian side and 2012 Copa Libertadores champions Corinthians. Despite winning the Libertadores, the Sao Paulo based side finished their domestic league campaign in a disappointing 6th but were hopeful of defeating the Kings of Europe in the final. Corinthians did exactly that as a Paolo Guerrero winner defeated Chelsea 1-0 in Yokohama and won what was their second world title. Can the Blues avoid heartbreak this time round?

Chelsea vs Palmeiras: Current form (Last five matches)

Chelsea: W W W D L

The Blues defeated Al Hilal on Wednesday by a goal-to-nil to book their place in Saturday’s showpiece final. Romelu Lukaku’s first half goal helped see off the Saudi Arabian side but it wasn’t a very convincing performance from Chelsea though they made the final nonetheless. However, they will need to improve if they are to overcome Palmeiras.

Prior to jetting off to sunny Abu Dhabi, Chelsea booked their place in round five of the FA Cup with a 2-1 victory over League One Plymouth Argyle. After going a goal behind, Cesar Azpilicueta levelled the scores in the first half. Neither side were able to find a winner in the second half as the match headed to extra time, where Marcos Alonso scored what proved to be the decisive goal. However, the game wasn’t finished there as Argyle were awarded a penalty but Ryan Hardie’s spot kick was saved by Kepa. The Blues very much did things the hard way but won and now face a trip to Luton Town in the next round.

Chelsea have not played much football in recent weeks due to the January international break but since their return, they have won back-to-back games in the past seven days. Before the break, the Blues returned to winning ways in the Premier League with a 2-0 win against rivals Spurs, which had ended a four game winless run. The West Londoners are starting to get back of track and a potential Club World Cup triumph will no doubt leave spirits high in the Chelsea camp.

Palmeiras: W W D W W

Similar to Chelsea, Palmeiras entered the Club World Cup at the semi-final stage as they took on Egyptian side Al Ahly. The Brazilian’s picked up a 2-0 victory with Raphael Veiga and Dudu getting on the scoresheet. Prior to playing in the Club World Cup, Palmeiras have played plenty of football in preparation for the tournament, competing in the Campeonato Paulista.

Unlike the Premier League and Europe’s top five leagues, the Brazilian league, the Campeonato Brasileiro Série A finished in December having started in May. Palmeiras ended the campaign in 3rd, securing their place in the 2022 Copa Libertadores group stage. The Brazilian side have played four games so far in the Campeonato Paulista group stage, winning three and drawing one. So far, Palmeiras have carried their good domestic form into the Club World Cup and will hope to continue that in the final.

Team News and Predicted Line-Ups

Chelsea

Ahead of the final, no fresh new injury concerns have been reported by Chelsea. However, there is some very good news on the management front though as manager Thomas Tuchel has flown out to Abu Dhabi and will be in the dugout on Saturday. Tuchel has been absent since testing positive for COVID-19 but was cleared to travel following a negative test result. No doubt a huge boost for the squad.

Meanwhile, as for the squad, AFCON champion Edouard Mendy is in contention to start in goal having returned back from the Africa Cup of Nations. The Blues shot stopper was in the squad for Wednesday’s game but it was too soon for him to start. Reece James remains out through injury but should be back in the coming weeks while Ruben Loftus-Cheek continues to nurse a knock and has not travelled to Abu Dhabi. Ben Chilwell, despite travelling, is of course the other absentee.

I don’t expect many changes to be made by the Blues for the final with the starting eleven staying near enough the same as it was against Al Hilal. Mendy may well take Kepa’s place in between the sticks with the back three of Antonio Rudiger, Thiago Silva and Andreas Christensen staying the same. Meanwhile, in midfield, N’Golo Kante could partner Mateo Kovacic, resulting in Jorginho dropping to the bench. Finally, in attack, Mason Mount could be handed a start over Kai Havertz in the front three with Hakim Ziyech and Lukaku.

Predicted Chelsea XI: Mendy (GK); Rudiger, Silva, Christensen; Azpilicueta (capt), Kante, Kovacic, Alonso; Mount, Ziyech, Lukaku

Palmeiras

Chelsea’s opponents, Palmeiras, may end up keeping the same starting eleven that ran out 2-0 winners against Al Ahly. Brazilian goalkeeper Weverton is expected to keep his place along with Marcos Rocha and Joaquin Piquerez covering the full-back positions. Meanwhile, strong centre-back pairing Luan and Gustavo Gomez should remain part of the strong back four.

Further forward, youngster Danilo and Ze Rafael will provide the cover in the defensive midfield positions in front of the defensive line. Elsewhere, the two goalscorers from Tuesday’s game against Al Ahly, Dudu and Raphael Veiga are no doubt going to start and will hope to provide a vital role in the final.

Completing the trio in attacking midfield and on the left hand side is Gustavo Scarpa. Finally, to complete the starting eleven for Palmeiras is striker Rony, who will look to make an impact against Chelsea.

Predicted Palmeiras XI: Weverton (GK); Rocha, Gomez, Luan, Piquerez; Danilo, Rafael; Dudu, Veiga, Scarpa; Rony

Match Details

Chelsea vs Palmeiras

Date/ Time: Saturday 11th February, 16:30 GMT, 20:30 Local Time

Venue: Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium, Abu Dhabi

Referee: Christopher Beath (AUS), Assistants: Anton Shchetinin (AUS), Ashley Beecham (AUS), Fourth Official: Mustapha Ghorbal (ALG), VAR: Massimiliano Irrati (ITA), Assistant VAR: Nicolas Gallo (COL)

Final Thoughts and Prediction

The Club World Cup is the one trophy that has alluded Chelsea and Saturday’s final is an opportunity to finally win it and it may well be the only opportunity Thomas Tuchel’s men get. I’m sure that the Blues will very much go all out to try and win, especially the captain Azpilicueta, who is the only remaining member of the side that lost to Corinthians in 2012.

It goes without saying that Chelsea need to improve from Wednesday’s victory over Al Hilal, which was very much a cagey affair and I expect the final to be no different. Both defensive lines will be very strong and I have a feeling the game is going to be settled by the odd goal. Nonetheless, I’m backing the Blues to just about edge it and get their hands on the trophy.

Prediction: Chelsea 1-0 Palmeiras

Written and Edited by Matt North (@MattNorth_)


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