The State of Play
Manchester City have the opportunity to put their patchy league form behind them and try to win some more silverware at the FIFA Club World Cup – starting tomorrow against Urawa Reds.
Saturday’s 2-2 draw at home to Crystal Palace, after leading 2-0 with 14 minutes of normal time remaining, means they trail Premier League leaders Arsenal by five points. By the time they return from Saudi Arabia, that could be eight with the Gunners playing Liverpool this weekend.
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In that respect, a trip to warmer climes – albeit FIFA’s cosy relationship with Saudi Arabia makes this an uncomfortable venue for many – and the opportunity to escape the battle for domestic supremacy may do them good.
A semi-final clash with AFC Champions League winners Urawa Reds won’t be easy, however. The Japanese beat Club Leon to book a date with City and coach Maciej Skorza, who will leave the club at the end of the tournament, will have his team fully prepared.
Both Erling Haaland and Kevin De Bruyne have travelled with the squad but it would be a major surprise to see either figure tomorrow. John Stones came off the bench late against Palace and he is likely to continue his comeback, although Guardiola may opt to stick with the same back four from the weekend.
Urawa are expected to go with the same line-up that saw off Leon. Former Marseille full-back Hiroki Sakai is nearing a return but is unlikely to be fit to face City.
Preparations have begun! 🌍🏆 pic.twitter.com/TqdzHw76sY
— Manchester City (@ManCity) December 18, 2023
Manchester City: Ederson; Walker, Dias, Ake, Gvardiol; Rodri, Kovacic; Foden, Silva, Grealish; Alvarez
Urawa Reds: Nishikawa; Sekine, Scholz, Hoibraten, Akimoto; Ito, Iwao; Okubo, Yasui, Koizumi; Kante
What they said
Guardiola on City’s first crack at the FIFA Club World Cup
“I am very pleased and excited to go there to try to win it, of course.
“It’s nice [the possibility of being world champions]. It’s a goal we could not have imagined to be there, but we are there.
“To play this tournament you need to be there, and we will see the environment, then play Urawa and try to get to the final.”
Urawa midfielder Ken Iwao, speaking to FIFA.com, on the challenge of facing Manchester City
“We’re here to do more than just make memories. Taking on the likes of Man City in a FIFA tournament is truly a once-in-a-lifetime thing. And knowing it’s up to me to either get something out of it or come away empty-handed gives me all the motivation I need. Of course, beating a team like that is a very big ask, but on our day, we can give anyone a game, and I think this kind of sudden death tournament suits us.”
When and how to watch
The game takes place at 1800 (UK time) at the King Abdullah Sports City Stadium in Jeddah. It can be watched on TNT Sports 2 or streamed on FIFA+.
City may be struggling domestically but their flawless record in the Champions League group stage shows they still have the edge against foreign opposition. Urawa will be no pushovers but City should have the quality to prevail and ease through to the final.