Club World Cup

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Klopp to take first team to Club World Cup, leave youth for EFL Cup

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Jurgen Klopp has chosen his strongest possible Liverpool squad to take to the Club World Cup later this month, leaving a reserve- and youth-laden team behind to compete in the EFL Cup during the same period.

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Liverpool will head to Doha, Qatar, for the Club World Cup, where they’ll play their semifinal fixture against one of Monterrey (Mexico), Al-Saad (Qatar) or Hienghene Sport (New Caledonia) on Dec. 18. The day prior, on Dec. 17, the Reds will also play away to Aston Villa in the quarterfinals of the League Cup. With the club’s star-studded first team in Qatar, progression to the semifinals of the League Cup will be down to a team full of teenage prospects.

Only defender Joel Matip and midfielder Fabinho, both of whom are currently injured and unavailable, were left out of the Club World Cup squad.

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Players suffering from illness or injury prior to Liverpool’s first Club World Cup game can be replaced in the squad up to 24 hours before kickoff.

Liverpool’s Club World Cup squad

Goalkeepers: Alisson, Adrian, Andy Lonergan

Defenders: Virgil Van Dijk, Dejan Lovren, Joe Gomez, Andrew Robertson, Trent Alexander-Arnold

Midfielders: Georginio Wijnaldum, James Milner, Naby Keita, Jordan Henderson, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Adam Lallana, Curtis Jones, Harvey Elliott, Neco Williams

Forwards: Firmino, Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah, Xherdan Shaqiri, Rhian Brewster, Divock Origi

Looking ahead to unbeaten Liverpool’s Premier League slate

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Liverpool’s incredible season took a major step toward greatness Sunday with a 3-1 win over Manchester City at Anfield.

The Reds now boast an eight-point lead on the field after 12 matches, and lead Man City by nine points in a bid for its first league title of the Premier League era.

[ MORE: Premier League Club Power Rankings ]

Yes, the Reds totally blew a bigger, later lead last season, but it certainly feels different this time around (especially with Man City needing to navigate more time without Aymeric Laporte).

As we’ve previously noted, Liverpool is unbeaten despite rarely being in top form this season. Jurgen Klopp‘s men will get to their best but are unbeaten despite not finding that form; The system is that good, the talent that deep.

So, assuming that an invincible season isn’t heading to Anfield, when will Liverpool lose its first match?

Looking ahead, if the Reds can manage the unpredictable nature of a Merseyside Derby on Dec. 4, it seems possible if not likely that the Reds will be unbeaten in the Premier League through Boxing Day.

How much longer after that, however, is a tall ask. The Reds’ five-match waltz after the international break is followed by a trip to Qatar which will, presuming an appearance in the Dec. 22 final, see them have three days to adjust to their home time zone and a visit to Leicester.

If the Reds manage to get a result there, they’ll face Wolves twice, Spurs once, and Man United once before the end of January. Then, and only then, might it be worth entertaining an unbeaten season.

Liverpool upcoming schedule (PL matches in italics)

#West Ham fixture still to be rescheduled
*denotes match that depends on previous round

Nov. 23 – at Palace
Nov. 27 – v. Napoli (UCL)
Nov. 30 – v. Brighton
Dec. 4 – v. Everton
Dec. 7 – at Bournemouth
Dec. 10 – at Red Bull Salzburg (UCL)
Dec. 14 – v. Watford
Dec. 17 – at Aston Villa (League Cup)
Dec. 18 –  v. Monterrey, Al-Sadd, or Hienghene Sport (CWC)
Dec. 22 – Club World Cup Final
Dec. 26 – at Leicester City
Dec. 29 – v. Wolves
Jan. 2 – v. Sheffield United
Jan. 4 or 5 – FA Cup third round
Jan. 7 or 8 – League Cup semi first leg*
Jan. 11 – at Spurs
Jan. 19 – v. Manchester United
Jan. 23 – at Wolves
Jan. 25 or 26 – FA Cup fourth round*
Jan. 28 or 29 – League Cup semi second leg*

How will Liverpool split up squad for two games in 24 hours?

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It has been confirmed Liverpool will play two games in two continents in less than 24 hours.

How is Jurgen Klopp going to do this?

Liverpool will play at Aston Villa in the quarterfinal of the League Cup on Dec. 17, with a separate squad flying out to Doha, Qatar to play in the FIFA Club World Cup semifinal on Dec. 18 and then the final or third-place match on Dec. 21.

The Liverpool boss refused to give specific details about how the squads will be made up and how the logistical plans will work.

“We don’t know exactly yet [how the logistics will work],” Klopp said. “We have an idea how we’ll do it but it’s too early to speak about that. We had to make a decision now and we made the decision because all the other alternatives were more problems than solutions. And that didn’t work out. So we said, OK, that’s how we can do it as good as possible for us. All the rest, we now have a bit of time to think about that.”

It is likely a young Liverpool side will remain in the UK and play against Aston Villa, with the more experienced players from that team flying out to Qatar right after the game and they can then be subs at least for the final or third-place game on Dec. 21 and maybe even the game on Dec. 18.

This is far from ideal, but it would appear that Klopp and Liverpool are prioritizing the Club World Cup competition.

Below is a look at the two possible starting lineups for the games which take place within 24 hours of one another, but close to 3,500 miles apart…


Starting XI for League Cup quarterfinal v. Aston Villa – December 17

—- Kelleher —

— Williams — Gomez — Van den Berg — Milner —

— Oxlade-Chamberlain — Lallana — Keita —

— Elliott — Origi — Brewster —


Starting XI for Club World Cup semifinal v. TBD – December 18

—- Alisson —-

— Alexander-Arnold — Lovren — Van Dijk —- Robertson —

—- Henderson — Fabinho — Wijnaldum —

— Salah — Firmino — Mane —


FIFA inviting some non-champions to enlarged Club World Cup

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Based on qualification procedures seen by The Associated Press, teams can qualify for FIFA’s expanded Club World Cup without having to win a regional competition – even at the expense of some champions.

The FIFA Council on Thursday is set to approve China as host of the inaugural edition of the 24-team club competition in 2021 and review the qualification procedures, people with knowledge of the decision making told AP.

They spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss FIFA’s plans ahead of the meeting in Shanghai.

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A document sent to council members seen by the AP shows the outcome of the initial talks between the FIFA administration and the six regional confederations to determine the criteria for securing one of the slots.

The revamped Club World Cup is due to be staged every four years, replacing the current annual format that features the six champions of continental competitions and the host nation’s domestic title winner.

But caps on the number of representatives from a single country in the new format raises the prospect of even winners of continental competitions missing out.

EUROPE

With eight slots, Europe will be the best represented continent at the Club World Cup even after rejecting four additional places, helping FIFA drive ticket sales and broadcast revenue.

All the Champions League and Europa League winners from 2018 to 2021 are set to qualify – although that could be dependent on UEFA determining the maximum number of slots per country. Clubs from England and Spain have dominated those competitions in recent years.

Should a team enjoy multiple wins across the competitions, the free slot is due to go to the most recent Champions League runner-up.

Real Madrid won the Champions League in 2018 when Atletico Madrid triumphed in the Europa League. English clubs swept last season’s trophies, with Liverpool victorious in the Champions League and Chelsea in the second-tier competition.

SOUTH AMERICA

While South America will get six slots, only the process for distributing four of them has been settled. They will go to the 2019 and 2020 winners of CONEMBOL’s two competitions: The Copa Libertadores and Copa Sudamericana.

The document shows no plan for determining the route to securing the remaining two berths or the limits on national representation.

ASIA

The three Asian places will to go the winners of the 2019 and 2020 Asian Champions League and the runners-up will have a playoff for the third entry into the Club World Cup group stage.

Saudi Arabian side Al-Hilal will play Urawa Red Diamonds of Japan in this season’s final next month.

If the title is defended in 2020, the runners-up from both years will complete Asia’s FIFA lineup.

But Asia only wants a maximum of two teams from one country. So, if the winners and runners-up in 2019 and 2020 are all from the same country, the two losing Asian Champions League semifinalists in 2020 would contest a playoff for a route into the global tournament.

NORTH AND CENTRAL AMERICA

The 2021 CONCACAF Champions League finalists will qualify but a process for deciding the third slot was left hanging in the FIFA Council document.

Mexican teams have won all 11 titles since the regional competition was rebooted as the Champions League. Only three of the finals have not been an all-Mexican lineup.

But a cap of two teams per country from this region will exist at the Club World Cup.

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AFRICA

The simplest qualification will be from Africa, with the places going to the 2021 Champions League finalists and the winner of a playoff between the two semifinalists.

The plan is complicated by a cap on two teams per country.

OCEANIA

Oceania is the only one of FIFA’s six confederations not guaranteed a place at the Club World Cup. To make one of the eight groups of three, the Oceania Champions League winner will face a playoff against the Chinese champions.

TOURNAMENTS DATES

A previous FIFA plan seen by the AP in March proposed the Club World Cup running from June 17 through July 4 in 2021, taking the slot originally set aside for the Confederations Cup competition that is no longer due to be contested.

For some players from Africa and the CONCACAF region it could be a busy summer, with their regional national competitions proposed to start on July 9.

The final two editions of the seven-team annual Club World Cup are being staged in Qatar this December and in December 2020.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

AP Sources: Qatar set to host next two Club World Cups

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PARIS (AP) Qatar is set to host the next two editions of the Club World Cup.

People with knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press that the FIFA Council will be asked later Monday to endorse Qatar for the seven-team club tournament this December and in December 2020.

[ MORE: Liverpool looks to lock up Klopp ]

The people spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the choice of venue ahead of the council meeting.

The event, which will feature European champion Liverpool this year, will test Qatar’s preparedness to stage the 2022 World Cup, including being played at the same time of year.

FIFA moved the World Cup from the usual June-July slot for 2022 because of the Gulf nation’s summer heat. It will instead start on Nov. 21, with the final on Dec. 18, Qatar National Day. Qatar experiences highs of about 77 degrees Fahrenheit (25 degrees Celsius) in December.

The decision to give Qatar the Club World Cup comes two weeks after FIFA settled on 32 countries contesting the 2022 World Cup rather than expanding to 48 teams.

The Club World Cup is also enlarging but not until 2021, when it becomes a 24-team competition held every four years.

The 2019 and 2020 Club World Cups will be the final versions with only the six continental club champions and the winner of the host’s domestic league. In Qatar, that will be Al-Sadd, which is coached by former Barcelona midfielder Xavi Hernandez.

The Club World Cup has been held in the Middle East before, but only in the United Arab Emirates. The UAE has hosted four editions, including when Real Madrid won the title in December.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports