This week, Barcelona will attempt to do something no club in the world has done before: win the FIFA Club World Cup, the tournament that pits club champions from six continents against one another with the title of “world’s best” on the line, for a third time.
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Only two clubs have won the end-of-year worldwide club tournament on more than one occasion — Barcelona (2009, 2011) and Brazilian side Corinthians (2000, 2012) — which means the reigning European (and Spanish league, Spanish cup and Spanish super-cup) champions will play for a bit of history, beginning when they take on Chinese side Guangzhou Evergrande in the semifinals of the Club World Cup on Thursday (5:30 a.m. ET) in Yokohama, Japan.
Guangzhou Evergrande advanced to the semis with a victory over CONCACAF Champions League winners Club America on Sunday. Former Tottenham Hotspur and sometimes-still Brazilian national team midfielder Paulinho scored the game-winning goal in the third minute of second-half stoppage time. The reigning AFC Champions League champions are managed by former Brazil boss Luiz Felipe Scolari.
Barcelona have taken a full-strength side, which includes the likes of Lionel Messi, Neymar, Luis Suarez, Andres Iniesta and Gerard Pique, to Japan. Barcelona, who were last in the Club World Cup four years ago, defeated Santos, then the club side of current Barca superstar Neymar, to win the title in 2011.
The first semifinal, to be played on Wednesday (5:30 a.m. ET), will see 2015 J1 League winners (host) Sanfrecce Hiroshima, who beat reigning CAF Champions League winners TP Mazembe in the quarterfinals, take on the reigning Copa Libertadores champions, River Plate.
The final of the 2015 Club World Cup is scheduled to be played Sunday (5:30 a.m. ET) in Yokohama.