Real Madrid may be the favourites to win the Fifa Club World Cup in the UAE, but you will not find any of the players thinking that way.
Keylor Navas, Real’s Costa Rican goalkeeper, said they will be taking anyone in the tournament lightly when they arrive in Abu Dhabi early next week after Saturday’s Primera Liga match at home to Sevilla.
“People think that the Club World Cup is an easy competition, but it’s not,” Navas told Fifa.com.
“There are teams from leagues that might not be as strong, but that doesn’t mean to say they don’t play well or that they can’t make life difficult for us.
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“We’re very much aware of that and we know it’s not easy. That’s why we take every game as seriously as we can.”
Madrid are looking to become the first side to retain the trophy, having won the 2016 competition in Japan against Kashima Antlers thanks to a hat-trick from Cristiano Ronaldo.
Madrid had trailed at one stage in the game before hitting back it to extra time, eventually winning 4-2, and Navas said the European champions still had that match in their memories.
“There are a lot of matches that can really go against you or where things don’t work out the way you expected them to,” he said. “We never lose our confidence or faith though. We always believe in each other. We didn’t know that we’d end up beating Kashima, but we did absolutely believe that every one of us was going to give their all to make that happen.”
Unlike their form in the Uefa Champions League, the Spanish champions have made a poor start to the domestic season.
They are fourth in the Primera Liga, eight points adrift of leaders Barcelona, but have advanced to the knockout stages of the Champions League, aiming to be the first side to lift the European Cup three seasons in a row since Bayern Munich in 1976. Real did not win their group, however, beaten to top spot by Tottenham Hotspur.
“Every side goes through a tough patch at some stage or other of the season and ours has come at the start,” Navas said. “The talent, commitment and confidence that we have both in the coaching staff and in the team as a whole will help us to keep looking forward and push for silverware.”
The form of Navas himself came into question from some Madrid fans and the goalkeeper said it was not always easy to hear criticism.
“Nobody likes it when people say bad things about you, because we’re all human beings and we have feelings,” he said.
“Ultimately, though, I always try to make sure that my happiness doesn’t depend on what people say but on what I feel in my heart.
“When I’m having a tough patch I always try to focus on good things.”
Madrid take on the winners of Saturday's match between Al Jazira and Urawa Red Diamonds on Wednesday at Zayed Sports City, with the winners advancing to the final on December 16.