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Football: Club World Cup preview

The Club World Cup gets underway on Wednesday with 10 days of competition set to play out in Morocco.

Holders Chelsea aren't involved in this year's edition so the trophy is set to change hands and record-winners Real Madrid will be hoping to claim the title for a fifth time.

The Spanish giants, who earned their spot after winning the Champions League, are joined in the competition by Flamengo, Al-Hilal, Wydad Casablanca, Seattle Sounders, Auckland City and Al Ahly.

Los Blancos and 2022 Copa Libertadores champions Flamengo don't enter the tournament until the semi-final stage on 7th and 8th February.

CAF Champions League winners Wydad Casablanca, Seattle Sounders, who won the CONCACAF Champions League, and Al-Hilal join in round two.

Meanwhile, OFC Champions League holders Auckland City and CAF Champions League runners-up Al Ahly square off in round one.

Kiwis face tough start

What:Al Ahly v Auckland City, Club World Cup
Where:Ibn Batouta Stadium, Tangier
When:19:00, Wednesday 1st February 2023
How to watch:FIFA+
Odds:Al Ahly 4/9, Draw 7/2, Auckland City 11/2

Auckland City are making their 10th appearance in the competition when they kick off the campaign against Al Ahly.

City's previous involvements haven't proven to be anywhere close to sucessfull, exiting at the first hurdle in each of their last two appearances, while they have only won three of 15 fixtures.

The Navy Blues went up against Al Ahly during their debut outing in 2006 but came away on the wrong side of a 2-0 defeat.

Egyptian giants Al Ahly are set to embark on their eighth campaign and they have reached the semi-finals in 2021 and 2020.

Both Auckland and Al Ahly enter the tournament with form on their side, although the former haven't played competitively since beating Wellington Olympic in the Grand Final on 4th December.

Al Ahly, meanwhile, are just short of midway through their domestic season but they head to Morocco sitting at the top of the Egyptian Premier League, having avoided defeat in their opening 15 games.

Auckland City are 11/2 To Win against 4/9 Al Ahly and the draw is available at 7/2.

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Sounders waiting for winners

MLS franchise Seattle Sounders will meet the winner of Auckland City and Al Ahly in round two.

The Sounders are making their maiden appearance in the Club World Cup after beating Mexican outfit UNAM to win the CONCACAF Champions League in May.

There has never been an American winner of the Club World Cup and no team from the MLS has even made it through to the final.

The other round two tie is already confirmed with Moroccan outfit Wydad Casablanca hoping to make use of home advantage when they face Al-Hilal.

It's just the second time Wydad have been involved and they'll be eager to avoid another second round exit, having lost to Pachuca in extra time in 2017.

Al-Hilal have two previous appearances under their belt and have finished fourth on both occasions in 2019 and 2021.

Wydad and Al-Hilal have met twice before with the latter sealing a 2-1 aggregate win in the quarter-finals of the Arab Club Champions Cup in 2005.

Spanish giants seeking history-extending triumph

Madrid have featured on five previous occasions and four of those have ended in glory, lifting the trophy in 2014, 2016, 2017 and 2018.

After beating Liverpool in the final of last season's Champions League, Real return to the Club World Cup and they'll face one of Seattle Sounders, Al Ahly or Auckland City in the semi-finals at Prince Moulay Abdellah Stadium in Rabat on 8th February.

Brazilian outfit Flamengo, who finished runners-up in 2019, feature on 7th February against either Wydad Casablanca or Al-Hilal at Ibn Batouta Stadium in Tangier.

The Club World Cup has only ever been won by teams from Europe or Brazil and it's likely that trend will continue this year with Real and Flamengo looking strong contenders.

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