x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Japan trip is viewed as no holiday by Barcelona

The Primera Liga champions can cap an excellent 2011 by winning the Club World Cup.

Barcelona players train in Japan ahead of their bid to win the Club World Cup.
Barcelona players train in Japan ahead of their bid to win the Club World Cup.

Barcelona's players earned their time off in Tokyo this week.

They can't relax fully and enjoy their free time as they have to come to terms with the severe jet lag which the Manchester United players found so difficult when the Fifa Club World Cup was last played in Japan three years ago.

But at least they have their wives and partners with them. Pep Guardiola, the Barcelona coach, is big on family unity, whether it is domestic bliss or a happy changing room. And his changing room was very happy late on Saturday night.

The Catalans beat Real Madrid 3-1 away and will have that memory fresh in their mind as they intend to be crowned world champions for the second time since the tournament began in 2000.

Barca won the competition in Abu Dhabi two years ago and they are favourites to lift the trophy this year, with Brazil's Santos, the 2011 Copa Liberatadores winners, the main - if not only - realistic threat.

That is the Santos of Neymar, the striker who Barca and Real have been angling to sign for the last year.

If the 19 year old was weighing up his future club on the basis of their attack by watching Saturday's clasico, there would have only been one choice.

A goal down in the first minute, Barca hit back in devastating fashion as they showed who is the best team in Spain.

It was not the vintage Barca of last season's 5-0 rout, but that was a once in a lifetime performance. Instead, they made an excellent Real side look average, with Cristiano Ronaldo again made to look ineffective against his side's biggest rivals.

And all that in a game when Real were supposed to reassert their Spanish hegemony and set a marker for the rest of football.

Barca have gone to the Far East in pursuit of their fifth trophy of 2011. Real have won one.

The Catalans' first game in Japan is against the 2011 Asian Champions League Al Sadd tomorrow. After watching el clasico, the Qataris must be hoping the time difference will drain some of the zip out of the planet's finest football team.