Hello and welcome to Sports Mole
's live coverage of the match in the FIFA Club World Cup between Kashima Antlers
and Real Madrid
. The Spanish giants are favourites to win the competition for the fourth time time in five years but as we discovered yesterday, do not write off the underdogs.
Pretty much everyone had been anticipating a final between River Plate and Real Madrid, but that won't happen. River Plate were stunned by Al Ain on penalties yesterday and will now take their place in Saturday's final.
Without further ado, let's take a look at the two starting lineups, beginning with Real...
REAL MADRID XI: Courtois; Carvajal, Ramos, Varane, Marcelo; Kroos, Llorente, Modric; L.Vazquez, Benzema, Bale
KASHIMA ANTLERS XI:
Suntae; Nishi, Seung-Hyun, Shoji, Yamamoto; Endo, Nagaki, Leo Silva, Abe; Doi, Serginho
Let's start with Real and it was expected that interim head coach Santiago Solari
may give a few fringe players some minutes in the semi-finals. However, that has not been the case and there are very few surprises.
and Karim Benzema
have both been carrying minor injuries and could have been left on the bench. However, the star duo both take their places in attack alongside Lucas Vazquez.
Casemiro is fit again after a spell out through injury, but the Brazilian has been kept in reserve with Marcos Llorente keeping his place in the team. Toni Kroos and Luka Modric will operate either side of the academy graduate.
The defence is as strong as it gets. Again, there was arguably an opportunity for the likes of Sergio Ramos
and Marcelo to be rested but the pair both start this game. Nacho is on the bench after his recent recovery from injury.
A bench consisting of 12 players is available to Solari. The likes of Marco Asensio and Dani Ceballos will be hoping to feature in the second half.
As for Kashima, two changes have been made from the team which began the game against Guadalajara last weekend. One alteration comes at right-back with Atsuto Uchida dropping out of the team for Daigo Nishi.
The second comes on the left of midfield as Leandro
is replaced by Hiroki Abe. Serginho
and Shouma Doi keep their places in attack.
This game represents Real's first in this year's competition, but Kashima have already been in action. The Japanese outfit came from behind to register a thrilling 3-2 victory over Guadalajara on Saturday.
That game was played in front of less than 4,000 people in Al Ain, which was not ideal for a tournament of this standing. We will have to wait and see how many are in attendance now that the competition has moved to Abu Dhabi.
To give you an indication of the size of the task awaiting Kashima, the European representatives have won 10 of the last 11 competitions. Only Corinthians' triumph over Chelsea in 2012 has resulted in the favourites failing to lift the trophy.
That said, Kashima are Japan's most successful team in this competition. They reached the final of this event just two years ago having defeated Auckland City, Mamelodi Sundowns and Atletico Nacional.
Real are vying to become the most successful side in this competition's history. They are currently locked on three wins apiece with rivals Barcelona.
Solari will probably be pleased to get Real away from the spotlight in Spain. It has been a bit of a struggle for the interim boss, despite nine wins coming from his 11 matches in charge.
Results have improved under Solari, but the level of performances are still someway short of what is expected. Real have only registered 1-0 wins over Huesca and Rayo Vallecano- the league's bottom two sides - in their last two domestic outings.
On a positive note, Real now sit in fourth place and just five points adrift of leaders Barcelona. They also hold a four-point cushion over Real Betis.
That improvement in results has also come at a time when Solari has introduced new players into the fold. Real have already used 23 different players in 16 league games this season.
That rotation has been required because Real have struggled at both ends of the pitch. Only Ramos, Bale and Benzema have scored four or more goals in the league this season, while no player has contributed more than two assists.
Let's turn our attention back to Kashima now and the Japanese outfit qualified for this competition as a result of winning the 2018 AFC Champions League. They defeated Iranian side Persepolis in the final.
They had two representatives in the Japan squad at last summer's World Cup. Naomichi Ueda and Gen Shoji were both present in Russia.
Kashima finished in third place in the most recent edition of the J-League. A total of 56 points were recorded from 34 games, but they finished 13 points adrift of champions Kawasaki.
Manager Go Oiwa
is somewhat of a club legend. He spent the last eight years of his playing career at Kashima before going on to become a coach. The 46-year-old was given the main role in the dugout in May 2018 and has won 48 of his 83 matches in charge.
PREDICTION! Madrid are so unpredictable at the moment that they could easily lose this game, but we have to back the superior quality and there is no doubt that the Spanish outfit still possess that, despite their shaky form. Real to prevail by a 2-1 scoreline.
HEAD TO HEAD! These two teams have only previously met on one occasion. That came when Real registered a 4-2 victory after extra time in the 2016 event.
It's time for the two teams to start making their way out in Abu Dhabi. This is the first game of the tournament to be hosted at the Zayed Sports City Stadium.
A reminder of the two starting lineups...
KASHIMA ANTLERS XI: Suntae; Nishi, Seung-Hyun, Shoji, Yamamoto; Endo, Nagaki, Leo Silva, Abe; Doi, Serginho
REAL MADRID XI: Courtois; Carvajal, Ramos, Varane, Marcelo; Kroos, Llorente, Modric; L.Vazquez, Benzema, Bale
KICKOFF: Kashima get us underway!
SHOT! Wow, Kashima nearly take the lead inside two minutes! Serginho tried his luck from the left-hand side of the penalty area and the Brazilian's low strike was superbly tipped behind by Courtois.
CHANCE! Another chance goes begging! The inswinging corner is flicked on by Shoji and his glancing header goes just wide of the far post. It almost found a teammate as well, but he could not make the decisive touch.
If Real Madrid thought that this match would be easy, they won't now. The Asian outfit have started extremely brightly and the European champions need to find a way to get a foothold in this contest.
Both teams manage to get crosses into the penalty area on each occasion, the ball is comfortably cleared by the defence.
Real have certainly improved since the start of this game but they are still struggling to mount any kind of sustained pressure on their opponents.
SHOT! Solari's men finally create their first shot of the contest. Modric played the ball through to Benzema who only has one thing in his mind, but the Frenchman's strike was parried by Suntae and collected at the second opportunity.
Kashima's build-up play from the back was perceived as confidence during the early stages, but Real have opted to push up five yards and it has heaped the pressure on the defensive players of the Japanese outfit.
Real have got a couple more crosses into the box over the past few minutes, but Kashima haven't totally gone on the defensive. The first goal in this match could be key.
Kashima put together a well-constructed move which starts through Doi, but the eventual cross into the middle is defended solidly enough by Real.
SHOT! This is ambitious from Serginho, but you can't really blame him for trying. The Brazilian attempts to beat Courtois from distance rather than taking on Varane, but the ball goes well off target.
Kashima are starting to get back on top. There was every suggestion that Real were going to take control of this contest, but it has not materialised that way.
SHOT! Half a chance for Kashima as a corner falls invitingly for Abe, but the forward's volley is miscued wide of the target. Real need to regain their focus here.
SHOT! Real get the ball back at the other end and Benzema tries his luck from distance, only for his attempt to roll through to Suntae in the Kashima goal.
SHOT! Bale follows suit by getting a long-range shot away but like his teammate, it does not come close to opening the scoring. The Welsh star has not really been in the game.
SHOT! Real are playing some really good stuff in patches, but without the clinical touch at the end of it. A move involving multiple players end up with Kroos having a curling effort comfortably dealt with by Suntae.
SHOT! The pressure continues with Ramos being found from a set piece, but the defender's header goes wide of the target.
CHANCE! It's Benzema's turn to get an opportunity and he has scored several of these in the past. Marcelo's cross from the left found the Frenchman, but his header went wide.
Real remain on top but it as been at least a couple of minutes without a shot on goal. It's been a while since we have been able to say that!
SHOT! Kashima finally provide a response and manage to win a free kick on the edge of the area, but Serginho's effort comes nowhere near to beating Courtois with the ball going over.
The underdogs have managed to break up Real's spell of dominance just at the right time. You feel that they need to get to the break on level terms.
YELLOW CARD! Carvajal is the first man to be booked this evening. The Real right-back went in late on Yamamoto.
Soon after his first caution, Carvajal almost receives a second with the defender catching Abe on the calf. Fortunately for the Spanish giants, the referee takes no further action.
GOAL! Kashima Antlers 0-1 Real Madrid (Gareth Bale)
This could be a big goal. Marcelo does well down the left before teeing up Bale, who produces a clinical first-time finish with his favoured foot. Massive blow for Kashima.
HALF TIME: Kashima Antlers 0-1 Real Madrid
The half-time whistle goes in Abu Dhabi and Real lead thanks to that Bale effort. It's harsh on Kashima who could have gone ahead in the opening few minutes, but it will now be an uphill task for the Japanese side.
For all of the chances that Real have created, the one for Bale was one of their few clear-cut openings of the first half but the quality of the finish showed the difference in class between the two sides. Bale has not had his best four months on the pitch, but he has put his team 45 minutes away from a place in the final.
KICKOFF: Real get us back underway.
It's been a slow start to the second half. Well, just not as dramatic as at the beginning of the first! Kashima made a change at the break with Uchida replacing Nagaki.
CHANCE! Almost a second for Real! Bale has grown into this game and although his cross into the middle takes a deflection, it falls invitingly for Benzema. However, the Frenchman's shot is cleared off the line by Yamamoto!
YELLOW CARD! Yamamoto stay in the thick of the action and is booked for a foul on Vazquez.
GOAL! Kashima Antlers 0-2 Real Madrid (Gareth Bale)
Game over? Most probably. Kashima make a mess of things at the back with Yamamoto failing to get the ball back to goalkeeper Suntae, and it allows Bale to get there first and eventually fire home into an empty net.
GOAL! Kashima Antlers 0-3 Real Madrid (Gareth Bale)
Well it is definitely game over now. Modric gives Marcelo the chance to deliver a cross from the left, and the Brazilian is able to pick out Bale who completes a quickfire hat-trick.
The pace of this game will drop considerably now. Real will be keen to conserve all the energy that they can ahead of the final. Kashima will just want to keep the score down.
SUBSTITUTION! This comes as no surprise. Solari moves to substitute Bale, with Marco Asensio being introduced in his place.
Kashima have barely contributed anything going forward since the break, but Varane is required to make a timely interception to prevent a cross finding its target.
Back come Real with both Vazquez and Asensio having the opportunity to pose a threat in the final third, but both players pick the wrong option.
CHANCE! Vazquez should add a fourth for Real when being given the chance to lift the ball over Suntae and into the net, but the Spaniard does not get enough power on his shot.
SUBSTITUTION! Real make a second alteration as Isco is introduced to take the place of Vazquez.
The tempo of this game has definitely dropped over the past few minutes. Real are doing a little more than going through the motions, but it has turned into a bit of a training exercise.
Kashima manage to win a corner after Carvajal is forced to put the ball behind, but the set piece comes to nothing.
SUBSTITUTION! This is a blow to Real. Asensio has not been on the pitch for that long, but the Spaniard has to go off with a thigh problem. Casemiro is on in his place.
Kashima deserve a bit of credit here. They are starting to go on the front foot having noticed that Real's intensity has dropped. The European side still need to be careful.
GOAL! Kashima Antlers 1-3 Real Madrid (Shoma Doi)
Now then! Kashima have pulled a goal back in Abu Dhabi. Doi converted after Kashima had won a corner, but VAR is taking a look at the goal. Offside and handball are soon ruled out and it is allowed to stand!
SHOT! That goal will certainly be enough to lead to Real regaining their focus. They go up the other end and win a corner, but Benzema sends a headed opportunity well off target.
SHOT! Kashima hit back with Leo Silva trying to beat Courtois from a long way out, but the Belgian stopper deals with it without any dramas.
A Real move breaks down when Isco gives the ball away, but Kashima cannot do anything on the counter. Just the six minutes plus added-on time for Real to see out.
CHANCE! Isco redeems himself by teeing up Benzema who can seal the game for his side, but the Frenchman drills just wide from what appeared to be a promising position.
The minutes are simply being played out now. Kashima's race is run and Real are coasting into Saturday's final.
There will be four minutes of added-on time.
Again, we are just going through the motions. Real are looking to avoid more injuries after the issue sustained by Asensio.
FULL TIME: Kashima Antlers 1-3 Real Madrid
The final whistle goes in Abu Dhabi and Real are through to the final! Bale's hat-trick scored either side of the break effectively ended this game as a contest. The European champions go through to play Al Ain on Saturday.
That will be all from Sports Mole
for this match. Thank you for joining us and we hope to see you again soon.
If you would like to read our on-the-whistle match report, you can do so by clicking here. Goodbye for now.