Chelsea “are here to win it” after battling their way into their second Club World Cup final thanks to Wednesday’s 1-0 over Saudi Arabia’s Al Ahly.
Mason Mount was fit enough for a place on the bench at Abu Dhabi’s Mohamed bin Zayed Stadium, while Kepa Arrizabalaga started in goal, with Edouard Mendy on the bench after helping Senegal win the Africa Cup of Nations on Sunday.
Meanwhile, Al-Hilal featured some familiar names with former Premier League stars Matheus Pereira and Odion Ighalo starting.
Chelsea captain Cesar Azpilicueta insisted there would be no complacency against the Asian champions having been part of the side that lost 1-0 to Corinthians in the final of the 2012 edition of this competition.
The Blues started the better of the two sides but after spurning a host of chances, Romelu Lukaku broke the deadlock, rifling home after Yasser Al Shahrani failed to clear Kai Havertz’s left wing cross, his first goal since January 8.
Conditions played their part in Abu Dhabi as the Champions League holders faded as the game went on, and goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalga made a string of fine saves to stake a claim to keep his place ahead of the returning Edouard Mendy.
Chelsea will now face Brazilian side Palmeiras, who defeated Al Ahly in their semi-final on Wednesday, aiming to win the only trophy that has escaped them in Roman Abramovich’s 19-year reign (Match Result – Chelsea 7/10, Draw 11/4, Palmeiras 18/5).
Speaking after the game, assistant coach Zsolt Low, who was in the dugout in place of the ill Thomas Tuchel, insisted his side will head into Sunday’s final with only one thing on their mind.
“Palmeiras is a very, very big team with a good European coach,” he said, quoted by Football.London. “We expect a very hard game in the final with a lot of spectators from Brazil.
“Like today it will feel like an away game. That makes things more difficult but we’re ready to play the final. We’re here to win it.”
Football Betting Odds