Ronaldo fever grips UAE as Real take on Al Jazira

The Club World Cup pits Fifa's six reigning confederation champions plus the league winners of the host country.

Dubai: C-Ron fever has swept the United Arab Emirates. With Real Madrid taking to the turf at the Zayed Sports City for their Fifa Club World Cup semi-final against local side Al Jazira, Arabian Gulf League champions later in the evening, Los Blancos are everywhere.

Whether on hoardings at this bustling, business-driven emirate, in the local media — print and electronic — or street discussions, Cristiano Ronaldo is the name on everyone’s lips, and Al Jazira coach, Henk ten Cate has already said the Ballon D’Or winner and his fellow attackers will be almost impossible to stop on the night.

Al Jazira set up this match with upset wins over New Zealand’s Auckland City and Asian champions Urawa Red Diamonds of the J-League, and fans mobbed the Abu Dhabi airport at the weekend, but the Real Madrid contingent were taken away from the airport’s private terminal to the Four Seasons Hotel.

Despite the obvious mismatch in class and standings, Real coach Zinedine Zidane said the fact that there was a second successive Club World Cup title at stake was enough motivation for his side. “We want to defend the title we won last year. For that we have come here, it has been a long trip, it’s a competition we want to win, we want to go back with the trophy.

“I’m very happy to have all the players ready. We have 21 training, which is important for a coach,” he said in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday.

The Club World Cup pits Fifa’s six reigning confederation champions plus the league winners of the host country.

Real received a bye into the semi-finals and will want to build on their successes of 2014 and 2016. Another motivator is the fact that Spanish rivals Barcelona are the only team to have won this competition thrice since its launch in 2000.

If Madrid win, they will face Gremio in Saturday’s final after the Brazilian side beat Pachuca of Mexico 1-0 after extra time in the other semi-final.

And ten Cate, Al Jazira’s Dutch coach, was honest when asked what he expected from their match-up against Los Blancos. “We’re going to need three buses,” he said with a smile. “Dreaming is OK but you must not become stupid.

“You have to be realistic, the chances of us getting a result are not that big, the difference in quality is too huge, but my team will fight until the end and maybe Mourinho can come by and put two buses in front of our goal as well,” he said of the Manchester United manager’s defensive tactics especially in big games.

“We don’t need to motivate them,” he said of his team. “Some of the players, especially the younger ones, play PlayStation on the bus to away games and a lot of them support Real Madrid and they know all the players.

“It’s funny because those same boys who play PlayStation will now face Real’s stars. For them, it’s probably a life changing situation … now they are facing players like Cristiano Ronaldo, for instance, who has just won five Ballons d’Or, and now they are standing next to him in the tunnel about to go out onto the pitch and play against him.”

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