As the UEFA representatives in next February’s FIFA Club World Cup in the United Arab Emirates by way of their recent Champions League title, Christian Pulisic and Chelsea learned their possible opponents for the final tournament.
The tournament is set to take place over February 3-12 in the UAE, with the exact host stadiums for the games still to be announced. In the final tournament, both the UEFA and CONMEBOL representatives, Chelsea and Brazilian club Palmeiras respectively, skip ahead to the semifinals.
Today, the paths for the remaining five teams who will compete in the earlier rounds for the opportunity to face the reigning Champions League and Copa Libertadores victors were set.
Chelsea have perhaps an easier route through to the final on February 12 than their South American counterparts, as they will face one of Al Jazira Club, Auckland City FC or Al Hilal SFC in their semifinal match.
Chelsea’s side of the bracket includes the play-in game between the hosts’ allotted local representative, Al Jazira, who won the most recent edition of their domestic UAE Pro League, and Auckland. The New Zealanders were selected as the OFC representative in the absence of the usual OFC Champions League due to widespread border closures in the region stemming from the Covid-19 pandemic.
The winner of this first round will then face AFC Champions League victors Al Hilal a few days later, with the victor due to battle Chelsea in the semifinal.
On the other side of the bracket, Egyptian club Al Ahly SC will play against Mexican club CF Monterrey, respective winners of the CAF and CONCACAF Champions Leagues. The winner will then go up against Palmeiras for a spot in the final.
Since the first edition of the Club World Cup in 2000, every edition has been won by either the European or South American representative. In five instances, a team from one of the other federations has reached the final, however has lost on each occasion.
This is Chelsea’s second trip to tournament, having finished as runners-up in 2012 edition in Japan, losing the final by a 1-0 score to Brazilians Corinthians.
As always, this competition will undoubtedly create a scheduling headache for the teams involved, and will force Chelsea to reschedule two Premier League fixtures – an away game at Brighton & Hove Albion, and a visit from Arsenal. This will also conflict with a potential fourth-round FA Cup game in the likelihood Chelsea reaches the final 32 in that competition.