Yokohama (Japan): Andres Iniesta is eager for another chance to erase the memories of his team’s defeat five years ago at the Club World Cup and finally lift one of the few trophies he has yet to win.
Iniesta was a member of the Barcelona team that lost to Internacional at the 2006 Club World Cup. His team returned to win the title in Abu Dhabi in 2009 but the 27-year-old midfielder was injured and didn’t play in the final when the Spanish giants beat Argentina side Estudiantes.
“We have to learn from the lessons of five years ago,” Iniesta said Wednesday. “It’s very important to me to win this tournament.”
European champion Barcelona will face Qatari club Al-Sadd in the semifinals on Thursday, with the winner advancing to take on either South American champion Santos or J-League side Kashiwa Reysol.
Asian champion Al-Sadd progressed to the semifinals with a 2-1 win over African champion Esperance of Tunisia.
Barcelona is looking to extend a four-year winning streak for European clubs, and Al-Sadd will be the clear underdog despite having spent large sums to strengthen the squad with players like Kader Keita, former Marseille striker Mamadou Niang and Brazilian striker Leandro, who is familiar with Japanese conditions after several years in the J-League.
Iniesta said the Asian champions aren’t to be taken lightly.
“I watched the game against the African champions,” Iniesta said. “They play a tough, physical game and I have a lot of respect for them because they are Asian champions.”
Barcelona is coming off an important 3-1 win against Real Madrid last weekend and manager Pep Guardiola said there will be no letdown by his players in Thursday’s semifinal in Yokohama.
“Madrid is in the past,” Guardiola said. “We are now focused on the match against Al-Sadd and will do whatever is possible to reach the final.”
The Club World Cup is back in Japan for the first time since 2008 after two editions in the United Arab Emirates.