x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Barcelona light up Club World Cup

Pep Guardiola, the Barca manager, thanks the sterling support in Abu Dhabi as his team make it into the final.

ABU DHABI // Pep Guardiola, the Barcelona manager, last night thanked the 40,952 fans inside Zayed Sports City for creating the raucous "home" atmosphere that roared his side to a 3-1 win over Club World Cup semi-final opponents Atlante. "We were absolutely delighted with the support," said Guardiola who saw goals from Sergio Busquets, Lionel Messi and Pedro cancel out a shock opener from Guillermo Rojas. "It is a great honour for us to be here in the UAE. It is a part of the world we wanted to come to and I hope we keep being so welcome. It was a bit like being at home and we have seen that we have a bigger number of fans than we thought. The finals will be a great fiesta between the fans of Barcelona and Estudiantes." Despite the one-sided nature of the support and the scoreline, Barca did not have things all their own way.

But the 54th-minute introduction of Messi decisively turned the match in Barca's favour. Guardiola said his decision to summon Messi from the bench was purely tactical and not a move to satisfy the fans. "The people wanted to see Messi," said Guardiola. "They buy tickets to come and see him. But he had a sprained ankle last week which had to be taken in a serious way. We depend on the medical report or else we wouldn't risk him."

Barca face South America's Estudiantes in Saturday's Club World Cup final, while Concacaf champions Atlante and South Korea's Pohang Steelers will go head-to-head in the third and fourth play-off place tie on the same day. "I have no doubt that we will have a first-class team playing against us," said Guardiola. "They are a team who we will have to prepare intensely for - they will be serious opponents."