Flamengo v Al Hilal: Jorge Jesus adamant Brazilians will prove they're better than Liverpool

By Sports Desk December 16, 2019

Flamengo begin their Club World Cup campaign against Al Hilal in Tuesday's semi-final, with coach Jorge Jesus convinced they will prove themselves to be a better team than tournament favourites Liverpool.

Jesus – who coached Al Hilal until January this year – has overseen a wonderful few months for Flamengo since being appointed in June, guiding them to success in the Brasileiro and Copa Libertadores, which booked their place in the Club World Cup, adding to their Campeonato Carioca success prior to the Portuguese boss' arrival.

Flamengo lifted the Libertadores trophy for only the second time in their history thanks to a dramatic 2-1 win over defending champions River Plate last month – star striker Gabriel Barbosa netting twice in the final minutes of the match having crushed fellow Brazilians Gremio 6-1 on aggregate in the semi-finals.

The Rubro-Negro are generally seen as the only credible threat to European champions Liverpool, even if most expect Jurgen Klopp's men to have little trouble bringing the trophy back to Anfield.

But, ahead of Flamengo's semi-final clash with AFC Champions League winners Al Hilal, Jesus has his focus firmly on Liverpool.

"For everyone else, Liverpool are better [than Flamengo]," Jesus told TV Globo.

"What counts the most is for me. Others may think Liverpool are better, but if we get to the final we will see who is better.

"And I believe the best will be Flamengo, but it's the hardest title we'll ever play."

Al Hilal head into Tuesday's clash in strong form having won each of their past five matches across all competitions, including Saturday's 1-0 victory over ES Tunis in their first 2019 Club World Cup match.

Much of the pre-match focus in relation to the Saudi Arabian club has been on the Jesus link given he played a part in the construction of the squad.

But Carlos Eduardo does not think Jesus' familiarity with some of the Al Hilal team will have much significance, as the incumbent Razvan Lucescu is the third coach to take charge of club since the former Benfica boss left 11 months ago.

"For sure, he [Jesus] will try to change things that we know [about him and his tactics], but we're different to his time," the in-form midfielder told reporters. "It'll be totally different. We'll use our weapons for an advantage, he'll use his weapons to try for an advantage.

"The team's style is totally different [to when Jesus was there], so I don't think there's any issue of advantage for any side.

"Almost nothing [is the same], it's a different time, a different team. It's obvious some players could take and learn from their coach, but it's almost an entirely different team."

Lucescu added: "Everyone in the world knows Brazilian football produces a huge quantity of talented players, but football's not just about talent.

"It's about spirit, moments, opportunities the game opens to you. We play with nothing to lose knowing we play one of the best teams in the world."

Player to watch

Flamengo – Reinier

With Barbosa, Everton Ribeiro, Lincoln, Vitinho, Gerson and Giorgian de Arrascaeta at his disposal, Jesus is truly blessed with attacking talent. But one to keep an eye on – not just this week, but over the next few years – is 17-year-old attacking midfielder Reinier. The teenager has enjoyed a rapid rise to prominence and is already being linked with major European clubs, such as Real Madrid and Arsenal. Skilful, a keen goal-scorer and impressively built for a teenager, Reinier could use this tournament as a springboard.

Al Hilal – Gustavo Cuellar

Much like Flamengo, Al Hilal have some solid options in attack with Sebastian Giovinco, Bafetimbi Gomis, Andre Carrillo and Carlos Eduardo. However, it is reasonable to expect the Saudi club to come under more of a defensive examination than the Brazilians, and that is where a familiar face will be expected to give Al Hilal an edge. Colombia international midfielder Cuellar played for Flamengo as recently as August and fills an important role for his new side, sitting just in front of the defence and breaking up attacking moves. His tenacity will be vital if Lucescu's men prevail.

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