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Chelsea train sights on first Club World Cup title

ABU DHABI (AFP) – Chelsea coach Thomas Tuchel will attempt to lead Chelsea to more silverware and a first Club World Cup title as the seven-team competition kicks off yesterday in Abu Dhabi.

The European champions fly out to the UAE following Saturday’s FA Cup tie against third-tier Plymouth, and are aiming to become the third English club to win the trophy after Manchester United and Liverpool.

“I have to say once you are in it you are pretty excited,” Tuchel told the Chelsea website.

“Once you are not in it, it is a competition that has not the highest focus and highest value. It seems like this in Europe, or only for me.

“But once you are in it and you start planning it and you see it coming on the horizon is it quite exciting.”

Tuchel guided Chelsea to a 1-0 victory over Manchester City in last season’s Champions League final. The Blues then edged Villarreal on penalties to claim the UEFA Super Cup in August.

Chelsea’s Thiago Silva celebrates after scoring his side’s second goal during the English Premier League soccer match against Tottenham Hotspur in London. PHOTO: AP

Chelsea return to the Club World Cup for a second time having finished as runners-up to Corinthians in 2012 in Japan – the last time a team from outside Europe won the trophy.

They will play Asian Champions League winners Al Hilal of Saudi Arabia, local side Al Jazira or Tahiti’s AS Pirae in the semi-finals on February 9.

“It is a big opportunity to win an extraordinary trophy which is far from daily business and that is why we will do anything to take the chance to make it happen,” said Tuchel.

Palmeiras, one of a record nine Brazilian clubs to have graced the tournament, should pose the main threat to Chelsea after defending their Copa Libertadores crown in November.

CONCACAF Champions League winners Monterrey are taking part for the fifth time. They face African giants Al Ahly in the second round, with Palmeiras awaiting the victors in the last four.

Al Ahly will make their seventh appearance after capturing a record-extending 10th CAF Champions League title, but the Cairo-based club are without a number of key players who are still involved with Egypt at the Africa Cup of Nations.

The latest edition of the tournament – which features the champions of the six continental confederations along with the top team in the host nation – was due to be played at the end of 2021 in Japan before it pulled out as host because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

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