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Preview: Real Madrid vs. Al Ain - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole provides the team news, predicted lineups and a full preview of Saturday's Club World Cup final between Real Madrid and Al Ain.

Real Madrid will be looking to land their third straight Club World Cup when they face Al Ain in the final of the 2018 competition on Saturday.

Los Blancos are the defending champions having overcome Gremio in last year's final and booked their spot in the 2018 final with a 3-1 win over Kashima Antlers. Abu Dhabi outfit Al Ain, meanwhile, beat 2018 Copa Libertadores champions River Plate on penalties in the first semi-final on Tuesday.

Real Madrid

Gareth Bale after scoring for Real Madrid against Kashima Antlers in FIFA Club World Cup on December 19, 2018.© Reuters

Not only would victory on Saturday hand Madrid their third straight Club World Cup, it would see them move ahead bitter rivals Barcelona to become the most successful team in the history of the competition. Indeed, both La Liga giants have three crowns at this stage, with Real landing the title in 2014, 2016 and 2017.

There has not been a non-European winner of the Club World Cup since Corinthians landed the title in 2012, and there is no question that Los Blancos are the favourites to triumph this weekend.

Kashima Antlers actually played quite well in their semi-final on Wednesday, but in the end it was a comfortable 3-1 win for Real, with Gareth Bale netting a hat-trick to become the leading scorer in the 2018 competition.

It would be fair to say that Real have had a tough few months, with a fairly rotten start seeing Julen Lopetegui losing his job as head coach. Santiago Solari has since steadied the ship though, and the Spanish giants have progressed to the latter stages of the Copa del Rey and Champions League.

Having already lost five times in La Liga this season, Real Madrid should probably already be out of the title race - that is simply not the case though, as they currently sit just five points off division leaders Barcelona.

The gap will become eight points if Barcelona beat Celta Vigo on Saturday night, however, and Madrid, who only just squeezed past Rayo Vallecano in their last La Liga match on December 15, will have one game to make up on their rivals during the second half of the campaign.

It has not been easy to come to terms with losing a figure such as Cristiano Ronaldo, and Real Madrid are not considered among the favourites to win the Champions League this season. It could yet be a successful campaign though, and they will be desperate to win another Club World Cup before the year is out.

Recent form: WWWWWW
Recent form (all competitions): WWWLWW

Al Ain

Al Ain players celebrate their Club World Cup semi-final win over River Plate in December 2018.© Reuters

Al Ain booked their spot in the final of this year's competition courtesy of a penalty-shootout success over Argentine giants River Plate. The pair played out a 2-2 draw at the Hazza bin Zayed Stadium on Tuesday, before Al Ain won 5-4 in the shootout to progress.

Unlike Madrid though, the semi-final was not Al Ain's first match in this year's competition. Indeed, the UAE outfit overcame New Zealanders Team Wellington on penalties - coming from 3-0 down to force a shootout - in the first round on December 12 to set up a clash with Tunisian side ES Tunis in the second round on December 15.

A comfortable 3-0 win over the African champions saw Al Ain advance to the semi-finals, and they will now take on arguably the biggest club side in European football for the right to win the 2018 Club World Cup.

Al Ain - nicknamed 'The Boss' - were actually only formed 50 years ago. They are, by some distance, the most successful club in the UAE, having won - amongst other things - 13 UAE Pro-League titles, six President's Cups, three Federations Cups and one Arabian Gulf Cup.

The club is also the only UAE side to have won the AFC Champions League, with that feat being achieved back in 2003, and they have also been runners-up on two occasions in the competition, most recently in 2016.

Al Ain's manager is former Croatia international Zoran Mamic. The 47-year-old turned out for the likes of Dinamo Zagreb and Bayer Leverkusen during his playing days, and managed Dinamo Zagreb and Al Nassr before taking charge of Al Ain last year.

It will be a famous occasion for 'The Boss' at the Zayed Sports City Stadium this weekend, and there is no question that it would be the biggest night in their history if they could somehow triumph. Fatigue may well be an issue though, with the team playing 330 minutes in just six days en route to the final.

Recent form: WWW
Recent form (all competitions): WWLWWW

Team News

Gareth Bale in action for Real Madrid in the Champions League on September 19, 2018© Reuters

Real Madrid boss Solari has no injury concerns from the team that started or indeed finished the clash with Kashima Antlers.

Marco Asensio and Isco both came off the bench in the semi-final, but it seems likely that Bale and Lucas Vazquez will continue in the final third alongside Karim Benzema.

Casemiro made his return from an ankle problem against Kashima Antlers though, and the Brazilian could take the place of Marcos Llorente in midfield.

Solari is unlikely to disturb the back four, meanwhile, with Dani Carvajal and Marcelo seemingly over recent injury problems.

Sweden international Marcus Berg was on the scoresheet in Al Ain's semi-final with River Plate, and the striker will again start in the final third with Brazilian Caio and Egyptian Hussein El Shahat.

Berg has scored 44 times in 45 appearances for Al Ain, and there is no question that Real Madrid will be wary of the in-form striker.

Two-time Japan international Tsukasa Shiotani, meanwhile, should keep his position at the back alongside the club's 35-year-old captain Ismail Ahmed, with former Wolverhampton Wanderers midfielder Tongo Doumbia also expected to keep his spot.

Real Madrid possible starting lineup:
Courtois; Carvajal, Varane, Ramos, Marcelo; Modric, Kroos, Casemiro; Bale, Benzema, Lucas

Al Ain possible starting lineup:
Essa; Shiotani, Fayez, Ismail, Ahmad; Abdulrahman, Barman, Doumbia; El Shahat, Berg, Caio

Head To Head

Saturday will be the first ever meeting between the two teams, although Real Madrid beat UAE opposition in the shape of Al Jazira in last year's semi-finals, with Ronaldo and Bale scoring in a 2-1 win.

Sports Mole Logo

We say: Real Madrid 3-1 Al Ain

Al Ain were impressive in their semi-final with River Plate, but Real Madrid should have too much for the UAE outfit this weekend. We fancy the Champions League holders to triumph 3-1.

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Who will win Saturday's Club World Cup final?

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Gareth Bale after scoring for Real Madrid against Kashima Antlers in FIFA Club World Cup on December 19, 2018.
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