The Fifa Club World Cup kicks off on Wednesday in Qatar.
The champions of each continent and hosts Qatar meet over 10 days in a knockout competition to decide who is crowned the world’s top club side, with Liverpool going in at the semi-final stage.
Why you should watch:
A chance to see Gabigol again
He may not have set the world alight at Inter Milan, but Flamengo striker Gabriel Barbosa – commonly known as Gabigol – is always worth a watch.
If you watch the November’s Copa Libertadores final, you will know what we mean.
The 23-year-old, who has won five caps for Brazil, scored twice in a dramatic final five minutes as Flamengo came from a goal down to beat River Plate 2-1 and win their first Copa Libertadores title since 1981.
Then he got sent off for sarcastically applauding a refereeing decision.
He even managed to tempt fate – and then beat it – by touching the trophy on the way out on to the pitch, a move generally considered to be bad luck.
The chance to watch teams you’ve never heard of
What if we told you there is a team at the Fifa Club World Cup who played in this season’s French Cup, from a land more than 10,000 miles away?
Hienghene Sport are only the second team from outside Australia or New Zealand to win the Oceania Football Confederation Champions League and qualify for the Club World Cup. They beat fellow New Caledonian side Magenta in the final.
For some context on the quality of that tournament, the runaway top scorer Ross Allen – who scored 11 times for Team Wellington – now plays for Guernsey FC in the eighth tier of English football.
New Caledonia is a French overseas territory in the Pacific – who voted no to independence in a referendum last year – but have been a full member of Fifa since 2004.
As a result of their special status, the New Caledonia Cup winners qualify for the Coupe de France, with Hienghene Sport losing at the first hurdle in 2013, 2015 and last month – all halfway across the world.
Oh yeah, Liverpool are playing too
Liverpool have the chance to be crowned champions of the world for the first time.
The Reds, despite winning six European Cups, have never won a world final. They lost the 1981 Intercontinental Cup to Flamengo and again in 1984 to Independiente – and refused to take part in 1977 or 1978.
They have played in one Fifa Club World Cup – losing 1-0 in the final to Sao Paolo in Japan in 2005 after beating Costa Rican club Saprissa 3-0 in the semi-finals.
Their semi-final next Thursday – the day after a different Liverpool team face Aston Villa in the Carabao Cup in England – could be against Mexican side Monterrey, who won this year’s Concacaf Champions League.
Liverpool will then play again on Sunday, in either the final or the third-place play-off.
The Club World Cup trophy has gone to Europe in each of the past six years, with Real Madrid winning the past three finals. The holders do not automatically qualify, so Real cannot defend their title.
The only European team to fail to win in the past 12 years was Chelsea in 2012. Manchester United won the tournament in 2008.
Dress rehearsal for the World Cup
The (actual) World Cup will be in Qatar three years from now – also in December. So this is a chance to see how the tiny country can cope with hosting a tournament with fans coming from around the world.
Qatar will host next year’s Club World Cup too, with even Fifa describing these as “valuable test events” for 2022, “allowing for testing under similar climatic conditions”.
The temperature in Doha on most days in early-mid December last year reached 26C.
Liverpool’s two games will take place at the 48,000-seater Khalifa International Stadium – which is a 2022 World Cup venue. They were meant to be at the Education City Stadium in Doha but the new ground has not been signed off in time, so the games were moved at late notice.