Liverpool face Monterrey of Mexico at the Club World Cup in Doha on Wednesday knowing that Flamengo lie in wait should they make it to the final of a competition they are looking to win for the first time.
Jurgen Klopp’s side have taken time out from their seemingly relentless march towards the Premier League title to come to Qatar, being forced to postpone one league game and play a youthful second string in a domestic cup tie which they lost 5-0 to Aston Villa.
However, Klopp brushed off suggestions that the competition is not the Anfield club’s priority as they prepare to take on the winners of the most recent CONCACAF Champions League.
“We are here, and we don’t fly 3,000 kilometres to not show up. We are here now, so our life is constantly dealing with difficult situations and finding solutions, being focused on the next game, wherever it is, we don’t care,” Klopp said at a press conference on Tuesday.
“Is it the most important cup competition in the world? I don’t know.
“In Europe obviously everyone thinks the Champions League is the most important competition. In Brazil Flamengo celebrated the Copa Libertadores intensely, so we are here to represent Liverpool and Europe, and we will try our best like we do always.”
Klopp watched on television from his Doha hotel as Liverpool fielded their youngest ever starting line-up for Tuesday’s League Cup quarter-final tie at Aston Villa, including five first-team debutants, and suffered a heavy defeat.
All of his senior players are in Doha, with Georginio Wijnaldum part of the squad despite being unavailable to face Monterrey.
Liverpool are hoping to win their second piece of silverware this season, having already lifted the UEFA Supercup in August on the back of their Champions League triumph. They were unbeaten in 19 games before the Aston Villa tie, and had lost just twice since January.
“We want to continue our good form. If a distraction is a chance to win a trophy then it’s a pretty good distraction to have,” said James Milner.
“The Super Cup we wanted to get over the line and there is a long way to go in the league, but the way we have started and the tempo we have started at, I think that takes a special mentality.”
Brazilians battle back
Flamengo coach Jorge Jesus is in no doubt his side will be the underdogs in the final should they end up facing Liverpool after coming from behind to beat Al Hilal, the Asian champions, 3-1 on Tuesday.
Salem Aldawsari gave the Saudi club a deserved lead in the first half, but Flamengo woke up after the interval and equalised through Giorgian De Arrascaeta in the 49th minute.
Bruno Henrique then headed home after 78 minutes and the same player’s low cross was turned into his own net by defender Ali Albulayhi late on.
Al Hilal finished with 10 men after Andre Carrillo was sent off.
“I don’t care whether we play Liverpool or the Mexican side. We didn’t think about Liverpool before playing Al Hilal but I am always impressed with European football and I believe they are the favourites,” said Jesus.
“When we came here to Qatar we wanted to win the Club World Cup, and now we want it even more.”
Fresh from winning the Copa Libertadores and the Brazilian title, Flamengo are also hoping to win this trophy for the first time. However, they did win the old Intercontinental Cup in 1981, defeating Liverpool 3-0 in Tokyo.
Wednesday’s second semi-final will be played on Qatar’s National Day, exactly three years before the 2022 World Cup final.
That tournament was moved to the end of the year to avoid the searing desert heat of the summer, and on Tuesday the rain in Doha was relentless.
Klopp will therefore be hoping the pitch at the Khalifa International Stadium is not damaged after two matches were played there on Tuesday, with Flamengo’s victory coming after African champions Esperance trounced Qatari club Al Sadd — coached by Xavi Hernandez — with a 6-2 win in the fifth-place play-off.