Liverpool’s quest to become the second Premier League club to win the Club World Cup begins Wednesday in Qatar against Liga MX side Monterrey.
The Reds hope to join 2008 winners Manchester United as the lone English winners of the 19-year-old tournament. Liverpool (2005) and Chelsea (2012) have also lost CWC finals.
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The tournament crown has belonged in European hands since Corinthians surprised Chelsea in 2012.
The Reds are nearly -1000 favorites to beat Monterrey and the world will expect a tournament crown for the Premier League side, to be sure.
They’ve added Sepp van den Berg, Ki-Jana Hoever, and Harvey Elliott to the team following injuries to Dejan Lovren and Rhian Brewster.
Liverpool play Monterrey at 12:30 p.m. ET Wednesday, 24 hours after fellow favorites Flamengo meet up with Saudi side Al-Hilal.
Here’s a quick roundup of the other three competitors.
The most immediate threat to Jurgen Klopp‘s goals comes in the form of CONCACAF Champions League-winning Rayados. Leonel Vangioni scored a marvelous goal to lead the Liga MX side past Al-Sadd in the quarterfinal. Former Spurs flop Vincent Janssen is in the club, as are familiar faces Miguel Layun (Watford) and Rogelio Funes Mori (River Plate).
The Saudi club got here by beating Japan’s Urawa Red Diamonds in the Asian Champions League, with Sebastian Giovinco and Bafetimbi Gomis leading the way. Gomis scored the lone goal of a quarterfinal defeat of Esperance Tunis, set up by ex-Watford man Andre Carrillo.
The Rio-based South American champions are led by Gabriel Barbosa, who is on loan from Inter Milan and scoring at will. Longtime Schalke and Bayern Munich man Rafinha is on the squad, as is former Chelsea man Filipe Luis. Diego Alves (Valencia) is the man between the posts.
Familiar names Bafetimbi Gomis and Sebastian Giovinco are now Asian Champions League winners after Al-Hilal outlasted Urawa Red Diamonds 2-0 Sunday, giving the Saudi Arabia club its third ACL title with a 3-0 aggregate victory.
Gomis (goal) and Giovinco (assist) were involved in the scoring, with the latter setting up Saudi Arabia international Salem Al-Dawsari for the opener.
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It’s Al-Hilal’s first crown since 2000, the Saudi side re-joining Pohang Steelers as the most successful club in the competition.
Japanese side Urawa was bidding to win its third title and second in three years.
Former Watford man Andre Carrillo scored in the 1-0 first leg.
An all-time MLS great is leaving the league.
Toronto FC has sold Sebastian Giovinco to Al-Hilal, ending the Italian’s torrential time in Major League Soccer.
It’s not hyperbole to say that Giovinco helped reshape the image of MLS.
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TFC general manager Ali Curtis called Giovinco “any GM’s dream” and addressed the challenges of replacing him via TorontoFC.ca:
“We believe in consistency, so this transfer hits hard in a lot of places. I have so much respect for Sebastian as a player and what he has meant to the organization. His departure presents both challenges and opportunities. Obviously, replacing a player like Sebastian is difficult, but we are working diligently and are confident that we will be adding a new Designated Player in the near future who will be an exciting addition to our team.”
Now 32, Giovinco arrived at TFC from Juventus in 2015 and debuted at the age of 28. He led TFC to its first MLS Cup, scoring 83 goals with 51 assists in 142 matches.
Toronto was 1W-5L without Giovinco last season, missing the MLS Playoffs by 14 points.
Giovinco was a force in the club’s run to the CONCACAF Champions League Final, spearheaded their Canadian Championship win, and managed 18 goals and 14 assists in 38 matches across all competitions.
The move does open a Designated Player spot for new Reds general manager Ali Curtis.
Al-Hilal is the home of ex-Premier League players Andre Carrillo and Bafetimbi Gomis.
Sebastian Giovinco has one year left on his Toronto FC contract, but also wants his next contract sorted quickly.
That may mean a move abroad, as the Italian wizard considers interest from Saudi Arabian side Al-Hilal.
Selling Giovinco would allow TFC to cash in on their star, and may also prod Jozy Altidore to the door — Liga MX? — ahead of a new contract as Ali Curtis reshapes the championship team reared by Tim Bezbatchenko.
Al-Hilal is managed by former Benfica and Sporting Lisbon boss Jorge Jesus, and has Bafetimbi Gomis, Andre Carrillo, and Jonathan Soriano on the books.
The move comes as Toronto is linked with oft-injured Darmstadt striker Terrence Boyd. The Reds acquired the top spot in the allocation order from FC Cincinnati this week in a trade for Nick Hagglund, and USMNT striker Boyd is believed to require allocation to arrive in MLS.
Boyd, 27, was one of the top American talents abroad when he sealed a 2014 move to RB Leipzig following a standout pair of seasons at Rapid Wien, but has played just 43 times for RBL and Darmstadt.
He scored four times in 24 Bundesliga matches during the club’s 2017-18 relegation campaign, but counts just one appearance of more than 15 minutes amongst his 13 times on the field for the 2.Bundesliga side.
Boyd was last capped in 2016.
Make sure to tune-in for our special Transfer Deadline Day show on NBCSN on Thursday, Jan. 31 from 5 p.m. ET as we focus on all of the moves across the Premier League in the January window. You can stream the show live online right here.
Toronto FC striker Sebastian Giovinco has been recalled to the Italian national team after three years away.
The “Atomic Ant” has received his first call-up from new Azzurri boss Roberto Mancini for the friendly against Ukraine and the UEFA Nations League clash versus Poland.
Giovinco, 31, was last called up by Italy in 2015 and his decision to head to Major League Soccer and play for Toronto FC was frowned upon by former Italian national team managers.
Toronto’s star forward has scored 82 goals in 139 appearances for the reigning MLS champions, but with TFC struggling to reach the MLS Cup playoffs with four games of the 2018 campaign to go, this is a good time for Giovinco to head away for the international break.
Below is the Italy squad in full, as Mario Balotelli and Andrea Belotti miss out.