Read our preview of the Club World Cup which kicks off on Thursday. Teams, players, tactics, coaches and more...
Real Madrid (Spain)
The story so far
Real Madrid travel to Japan having won a record 11th European Cup in May, beating city rivals Atletico Madrid in Milan.
They are no strangers to the Club World Cup, having beaten Argentina’s San Lorenzo 2-0 two years ago. Going further back, there have been victories in the competition’s previous incarnation, the World Club Cup, in 1960, 1998 and 2002.
On paper, they are in fine form: six points clear of Barcelona ahead of December’s Classico, and unbeaten in their Champions League group. But injuries to Gareth Bale and Toni Kroos have disrupted their preparations.
Coach Zinedine Zidane has proved to be an adept appointment by Madrid president Florentino Perez, despite having little experience, other than a season as assistant to Carlo Ancelotti in 2013–14, when appointed in January 2016.
Zidane has collected 86 points in his first 33 league games in charge (27 wins, five draws and one defeat). That is a better record than Pep Guardiola’s opening period at Barcelona, where he collected 82 points over his first 33 games in 2008-09. He has also surpassed Jose Mourinho’s 80 point haul at Madrid in 2010-11.
Former Madrid galactico Zinedine Zidane has impressed as coach since his appointment in January following a stint in charge of Madrid’s Castilla side. A World Club Cup winner when Madrid beat Olimpia in Tokyo in 2002, six months after his magical volley against Bayer Leverkusen in the Champions League.
Who else? World Soccer’s World Player of the Year for 2016 remains Madrid’s most important player even if he is not as essential to the team as he once was. In the absence of the injured Gareth Bale, he will be more important than ever in Japan.
Injuries to Bale and Kroos have forced Zidane to adapt his preferred 4-3-3 formation. Karim Benzema or Ronaldo is likely to lead the line behind a midfield three where the recently overlooked James Rodriguez or Isco could feature, with Mateo Kovacevic the likely replacement for Kroos in central midfield.