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Five Flamengo stars to watch as Brazilians face Liverpool in the Club World Cup final

By John Skilbeck
Gabriel Barbosa

Bengaluru/Doha, December 20: Flamengo are the reigning Brazilian league champions, the Copa Libertadores winners, and on Saturday (December 21) they will attempt to add the FIFA Club World Cup to their accolades.

Standing in the way of the team bossed by Jorge Jesus are Liverpool, who won the UEFA Champions League in June and are packed with superstar performers.

The match to be held at Doha's Khalifa International Stadium will begin at 8.30pm local time (11pm IST).

When it comes to the biggest names in the game, Flamengo cannot compete with the team they will battle for the global crown.

However, they possess plenty of quality in their ranks, and notably have a host of players who have returned to South America after stints in Europe.

Here is a look at five of their key players ahead of the clash with Jurgen Klopp's team.

Diego Alves (goalkeeper, 34 years old)

Regular watchers of Spanish league football will remember Alves from his Almeria and Valencia days. He spent four seasons with Almeria and six years at Mestalla before leaving Spain in 2017.

Alves is best known for his expertise in saving penalties, keeping out almost 50 per cent of the spot-kicks he faced while in Spain, including efforts from Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. Liverpool will not want to give him the chance to be a shoot-out hero.

Pablo Mari (defender, 26 years old)

If the stars had aligned slightly differently, Spanish centre-back Mari might have been the man tasked with solving the Manchester City defensive crisis that has been the reigning Premier League champions' downfall this season.

In theory he was a City player for three years, but Mari never appeared in a competitive game for the club, spending season-long loans with Girona, NAC Breda and Deportivo La Coruna before being offloaded by Pep Guardiola in July.

Five months down the line and he gets the chance to face Premier League opposition in the shape of City's great rivals.

Giorgian De Arrascaeta (midfielder, 25 years old)

Uruguayan De Arrascaeta played just a fleeting role in his national team's run to the World Cup quarter-finals last year, since when he has switched from Cruzeiro to Flamengo and gone from strength to strength.

Goalscoring midfielders can be priceless and De Arrascaeta is a persistent threat going forward. Like fellow Flamengo midfielders Willian Arao and Gerson, he was named in the Brazilian league's team of the year, receiving a Bola de Prata (silver ball) for the achievement.

De Arrascaeta's goal early in the second half kickstarted Flamengo's fightback against Al Hilal in the Club World Cup semi-finals, and Liverpool will need to curb his forward runs.

Bruno Henrique (forward, 28 years old)

Bruno Henrique's spell in Europe was short and not so sweet. He spent a year - January 2016 to January 2017 - at Wolfsburg, where he played in a Champions League quarter-final against Real Madrid, helping the Germans win at home before going out after a Santiago Bernabeu defeat.

Santos called and Bruno Henrique answered, before 18 months later he was prised away by Flamengo. The 28-year-old has played the best football of his career under Jesus, showing rampant scoring form alongside Gabriel Barbosa and earning a Brazil call-up.

Two Brazilian league hat-tricks since the start of November, and a starring goalscoring role against Al Hilal, point to his threat.

Gabriel Barbosa (forward, 23 years old)

AKA Gabigol. Gabriel earned his nickname as a child hot-shot but has justified it throughout his professional career, save for a disappointing year at Inter.

Technically Gabriel still belongs to the Nerazzurri, given he signed a five-year contract when arriving in 2016, but he has seen very little of San Siro in recent times.

After year-long loans at Benfica and Santos, where he also began his career, Gabriel joined Flamengo in January of this year and his temporary move is due to run to the end of this year.

His two late goals against River Plate last month dramatically gave Flamengo the Copa Libertadores title, and he won Brazil's Bola de Ouro (Golden Ball) award earlier this month.

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Story first published: Friday, December 20, 2019, 12:30 [IST]
Other articles published on Dec 20, 2019
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