Liverpool's Brazilians ready for Flamengo challenge
DOHA – Brazilians Robert Firmino and Alisson Becker will be out to overcome one of their country's biggest football clubs when Liverpool take on Flamengo in Saturday's final of the Club World Cup.
Forward Firmino and keeper Alisson were key figures for manager Juergen Klopp's side in overcoming Monterrey in Wednesday's semi-final.
Alisson made a number of important saves and Firmino came off the bench to notch the stoppage-time winner in a 2-1 victory which now gives European champions Liverpool the opportunity of winning the club title for the first time.
Brazil keeper Alisson predicts a difficult encounter with the champions of his homeland in the match at the Khalifa International Stadium near Doha.
"Flamengo have a lot of quality, they have a good defence but I don't know what to expect from the game," he said.
"I just know it will be a nice challenge for us, a good challenge and I think for who will be watching the game it will be a nice game with quality [of a] high level.
"We are both champions of the most important tournaments, us with the Champions League and Flamengo won the Copa Libertadores.
"I know how important this championship is for the Brazilian teams and South American teams, and I know it will be a hard game for us."
Klopp is waiting on the fitness of central defender Virgil van Dijk, who missed the victory over Mexican side Monterrey due to illness.
With injuries to central defenders Dejan Lovren and Joel Matip, as well as Brazilian midfielder Fabinho, who can be deployed in defence, it meant skipper Jordan Henderson had to move from midfield to fill the central defensive position against Monterrey.
Despite the match coming at a difficult time of the season for Liverpool - who will return to meet second-placed Leicester City in a Premier League match on Thursday - Henderson insisted the side were keen to win a trophy not always treated in Europe with the importance it is regarded in South America.
"We want to win and hopefully we can do that at the weekend," he told the Liverpool club website. "We've got another tough opponent as we have seen during the week, so it's another tough game but we'll recover and go again."
Qatar, the 2022 World Cup hosts, will again stage the tournament between the winners of the six continental confederations next year before the competition is expanded to a new 24-team format in 2021.
Flamengo and Liverpool have met before, with the Brazilians beating the English side 3-0 in Tokyo to win the former Intercontinental Cup in 1981. The Reds also lost the 2005 Club World Cup final to another Brazilian side, Sao Paulo.
Brazil's Corinthians in 2012 were the last South American side to win the trophy, with the titles since then going to Bayern Munich (2013), Barcelona (2015) and four times to Real Madrid (2014, 2016, 2017, 2018).
Flamengo coach Jorge Jesus underlined the significance of the competition for his side by saying Saturday's encounter would be "the most important match of my career."
And veteran Diego, a key player in midfield remembered in Germany from his time at Werder Bremen and Wolfsburg, said: "For us it is history. We are ready to make a good game on Saturday."
Saturday also sees the match for third place between Monterrey and Saudi Arabia's Al Hilal.dpa