x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Barcelona ease past Al Sadd into Club World Cup final

Villa leg break mars easy win for European champions.

Barcelona's Lionel Messi attempts an overhead shot against Al Sadd.
Barcelona's Lionel Messi attempts an overhead shot against Al Sadd.

YOKOHAMA, Japan // A weakened Barcelona outclassed Al Sadd 4-0 at the Club World Cup yesterday to set up a final clash with Santos, but the result was overshadowed by a serious injury to the striker, David Villa.

The Spanish international, who has been linked with a move away from the Camp Nou, could be out for at least six months after he was carried off on a stretcher with what Barcelona later confirmed was a fractured left tibia.

“He broke his bone so he will be returning to Barcelona as soon as possible,” said a sombre Pep Guardiola, the Barcelona coach.

“It will take some time to return to the team. I’m very sad to say this. It’s very unfortunate. I was talking to the other players in the changing room and saying that to recover from a broken bone takes time.”

Asked if the injury would mean he would be looking to sign a replacement in the winter transfer window, Guardiola said: “It’s not the time to talk about that. It doesn’t show respect for him.”

Thiago Alcantara, the Barca midfielder, said: “We are going to miss Villa. We hope it isn’t too bad ... When you play you never think that these things can happen. It was bad luck.”

Villa is Spain’s all-time leading scorer and helped the team with the 2008 European Championship and 2010 World Cup. Spain are favourites to defend their European crown at Euro 2012 in Poland and Ukraine in June.

Guardiola said Javier Mascherano and Alexis Sanchez, who replaced Villa after 39 minutes, also picked up injuries, but was unable to say how serious they were.

And he said of the 30-year-old Villa: “He’s going back to Spain to have an operation. Missing him is a blow to our team. We are very sad and hope that he will recover as quickly as possible.”

Guardiola left Xavi, Dani Alves, Cesc Fabregas and Gerard Pique on the bench, but it hardly mattered as the Qatar side, the Asian champions, were torn apart.

As anticipated, it was all Barcelona from the off at a packed International Stadium in Yokohama in a game that felt more like an exhibition match than a competitive fixture for the 66,298 fans.

Barca had a mammoth 70 per cent of the possession in the first 15 minutes, pinging the ball around as Al Sadd chased shadows under the floodlights in a one-sided contest.

Adriano scored two first-half goals, with Seydou Keita and Maxwell adding the others for the European Champions League winners.

“We did not give Al Sadd a chance,” Guardiola said. “That means the defence was well organised and our defenders had quick counterattack abilities.”

Jorge Fossati, the Al Sadd coach, said: “Nobody wants to lose, especially 4-0. But when you play a team like Barcelona this can happen. I am still proud of my players.”

Santos, the Brazilian side, beat J-League champions Kashiwa Reysol 3-1 on Wednesday to advance to Sunday’s final, which will feature a showdown between Lionel Messi and the Brazilian teenager Neymar, who scored the first goal against Kashiwa.

“Santos has a great history,” Guardiola said. “Pele used to play there. They are good at developing players and I am looking forward to playing them.”

Barcelona will be looking to extend a four-year winning streak for European clubs, as they aim to win the trophy for the second time in three years.

The Club World Cup is back in Japan for the first time since 2008 after two tournaments in the UAE. Barca won the title in Abu Dhabi in 2009 when they beat Estudiantes of Argentina.