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Real Madrid look to top off fantastic year

19 December 2014, 20:17

Marrakech - Real Madrid can cap off a magnificent year by winning the Club World Cup on Saturday, with the European champions facing San Lorenzo of Argentina in the final in Marrakech.

There will be a sell-out crowd in the 45,000-capacity Grand Stade in the Moroccan city for the game, and judging by the fanatical reception given to Madrid when they beat Cruz Azul at the same ground in the semi-finals on Tuesday, they will have the full backing of the locals.

Regardless of that, Carlo Ancelotti's side are overwhelming favourites to succeed Bayern Munich as winners of the annual FIFA competition.

Also read: Real Madrid, Spain dominate European club scene

The Spanish giants have already won the Champions League, Copa del Rey and European Super Cup in 2014 and will end the year on top of La Liga too.

The 4-0 win against Mexico's Cruz Azul, featuring goals by Sergio Ramos, Karim Benzema, Gareth Bale and Isco, was their 21st consecutive win in all competitions, and they now have in their sights the mark of 26 straight wins achieved by Johan Cruyff's Ajax side in 1971-72.

"I didn't imagine we could achieve so much. I think this team deserves the world title to finish off this fantastic year," said Ancelotti, who led AC Milan to the 2007 Club World Cup.

He is expected to hand a start to Ramos despite the defender coming off early against Cruz Azul feeling his hamstring, while he has tipped Ronaldo to get back among the goals after drawing a rare blank in the semi-finals.

"Ronaldo is always important for the team, even when he doesn't score. Maybe he was saving a goal for the final," he said.

That could be ominous for San Lorenzo, who will be feeling rather less fresh than Madrid after needing extra time to beat Auckland City 2-1 in the second semi-final on Wednesday.

The Buenos Aires club, one of Argentina's traditional 'Big Five' and the winners of this year's Copa Libertadores, may be able to boast the support of the Pope, but they know they are rank outsiders.

"For us it is an honour to be able to play this final. We would have liked another 24 hours rest but it was not possible," said San Lorenzo coach Edgardo Bauza, who led LDU Quito of Ecuador against Manchester United in the 2008 final.

"It is so easy to motivate the players for this match. It was very difficult to get here. Tomorrow (Saturday) will be our 65th match of 2014."

There has been some controversy over FIFA's decision to change the referee for the match on San Lorenzo's request, with Walter Lopez of Guatemala replacing Portugal's Pedro Proenca.

However, competition rules clearly state that the referee cannot come from the same member association as either of the clubs involved.

Meanwhile, some in Madrid are concerned that San Lorenzo will try to make up for the undoubted gulf between the sides by adopting an aggressive approach.

"Our football is different to European football but we don't have any intention to make it a dirty game," retorted veteran Colombian defender Mario Yepes, 38, formerly of Paris Saint-Germain and AC Milan amongst others.

Bauza said his team will be the same as that which started against Auckland, with Paraguayan midfielder Nestor Ortigoza set to start despite struggling with a knock.

Earlier, Cruz Azul and Auckland will play-off for third place in the same stadium.



Third-place play-off (1630 GMT)

Cruz Azul (MEX) v Auckland City (NZL)

Final (1930 GMT)

Real Madrid (ESP) v San Lorenzo (ARG)


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