Marcus Berg hopeful to be fit for Al Ain's Club World Cup semi-final against River Plate

Sweden international has been limited to appearances off the bench so far, but is confident he will be fit to start against the South American champions

Soccer Football - Club World Cup - Al-Ain v Team Wellington - Hazza bin Zayed Stadium, Al Ain, United Arab Emirates - December 12, 2018  Al-Ain's Marcus Berg celebrates scoring their third goal          REUTERS/Andrew Boyers
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Star striker Marcus Berg is optimistic he will be fit to start Al Ain’s Fifa Club World Cup semi-final on Tuesday, as he recovers from a virus that has affected the squad.

The Sweden international, top goalscorer in last season’s Arabian Gulf League, has been restricted to cameo appearances in the tournament thus far, having been struck down by an infection that has hit both players and the coaching staff.

However, Al Ain have still managed to make their way through to the last four, where they will meet River Plate, recent winners of the Copa Libertadores, at the Hazza bin Zayed Stadium on Tuesday night.

Until this point, Berg has been introduced late into both the UAE champions' matches, but he did score the all-important equaliser in Wednesday's penalty-shootout victory against New Zealand's Team Wellington.

On Saturday, in the quarter-final against African champions Esperance de Tunis, Berg helped see out the final few minutes as Al Ain protected successfully their 3-0 lead.


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Zoran Mamic: Al Ain must be ambitious against River Plate

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Now, the frontman has sights set on River Plate. Asked in the aftermath of the Esperance win if he would be fit to start on Tuesday night, Berg said: “I hope. I improved a lot the last days; after the [Wellington] game I didn’t have any setback, I got better. Today was OK. I’m still not 100 per cent, but I hope in the next two days I will recover fully and I’m ready to play.

“And if the coach needs me I will try to do my best to help the team because now we put ourselves in a good situation. Also for the players who played both of these games, it’s hard, so we have to recover well. But we can handle it and it will be a nice game against River Plate.

“There's players on the pitch who have the same virus as me and they do fantastic jobs. It’s never good to play when you’re sick, but sometimes you have to do it. I’m really impressed about the guys and the mentality they show on the pitch.”


Al Ain's win over Esperance de Tunis in pictures


Club World Cup debutants, Al Ain understand the size of the task ahead in the semi-final. River Plate represent one of the most prominent clubs in South America, as was confirmed by last week’s Copa Libertadores success.

The Argentines defeated domestic rivals Boca Juniors 5-3 on aggregate in the controversial final, and have not played since the rescheduled second leg at Real Madrid’s Bernabeu on December 9.

Al Ain, meanwhile, have played more than 210 minutes of football since opening the Club World Cup on Wednesday.

“It will be a tough game, for sure,” Berg said. “Like I said, we have had two tough games in three days so now we have to recover well. But if we play like this, if we have this mentality, we have a good chance to win there also.

“Of course, River are a team everyone knows about. You want to play in those kinds of games. For us it’s a very good chance to prove again how much quality we have.”