Manchester City won't take Fluminense lightly in Club World Cup final

Pep Guardiola says Brazilian side have experienced players and his team will have to be at their best

Manchester City's Kevin De Bruyne, left, trained with the team in Jeddah but won't be available for the Club World Cup final. Reuters
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Fifa Club World Cup opponents Fluminense will throw up a challenge Manchester City have never faced before when they face off in the final in Jeddah on Friday, according to manager Pep Guardiola.

The two teams, both debuting this week in the global tournament, go head-to-head at King Abdullah Sports City in a bid to create history by securing a first Club World Cup trophy.

City, the English and European champions, start as heavy favourites against their South American counterparts, even though they will contest the showpiece without star duo Erling Haaland and Kevin De Bruyne. The pair remain unavailable as they continue their recoveries from injury.

However, asked on Thursday about the perception that City are far superior to Fluminense – an article in an English newspaper referred to the Brazilians as a side fit for the country’s annual charity match "Soccer Aid" - Guardiola countered: "I'm not going to talk for a second about what the press said about tomorrow's game. I know Fluminense's talent and how much the competition means for South American teams.”

Fluminense sealed a spot at the tournament in Saudi Arabia last month, when they won the Copa Libertadores for the first time in their history.

The Sao Paulo side have a number of hugely experienced players in their squad, such as 40-year-old Felipe Melo, who represented the likes of Inter Milan and Juventus, and Marcelo, the 35-year-old full-back who won four Club World Cup crowns during his trophy-laden 14 years with Real Madrid.

“I know exactly the talent and the quality of Fluminense and what they can do,” Guardiola said. “They have beaten teams from Argentina, Colombia and Uruguay [to get here]. I know my players and respect them for what they do.

“Fluminense has six or seven players over 30 years old, which means they know how to control their emotions. They play in a very Brazilian way from the 70s, 80s: exchanges of passes, lots of players where the ball is… we need to stay aware of the spaces we will have.

“The way they play, we've never faced a team like that. It's not positional, they move a lot. We have to impose ourselves in the best way possible.”

Guardiola, who has won almost everything in his seven years at City, knows exactly what it takes to capture the Club World Cup having done so as a manager a joint-record three times: twice with Barcelona and once with Bayern Munich.

City, attempting to secure a fifth trophy in 2023, made their debut in the tournament only on Tuesday, when they easily dispatched Asian champions Urawa Red Diamonds of Japan 3-0 in the semi-final. Fluminense had seen off African champions Al Ahly the previous night.

“It's so difficult to come here,” Guardiola said. “To win the Libertadores, the Champions League, both competitions are really tough.

"The [Club World Cup] is something that remains for ever. Premier League this season, next season, it will be there. I don't know if we'll come back to play a final for the Club World Cup."

Meanwhile, Guardiola was asked for his reaction to the latest news regarding a possible European Super League. The European Court of Justice decision, ruling that Uefa and Fifa banning clubs from joining the proposed league was unlawful, was announced only hours before he faced the media on Thursday.

Yet Guardiola said: “Super League? I will not talk about this before a final.”

Updated: December 21, 2023, 5:04 PM