FIFA Club World Cup Preview: Raja Casablanca v Atletico Mineiro
By Football News
Atletico Mineiro will make their maiden appearance in the FIFA Club World Cup on Wednesday against a buoyant Raja Casablanca.
Brazilian side Atletico clinched their first Copa Libertadores title back in July with a two-leg victory over Paraguayan side Olimpia.
The South American champions now have the opportunity to end an historic year with a world title, but will need to negotiate a semi-final with a Casablanca side that has momentum following consecutive wins to start the tournament.
Casablanca are likely to have the home fans in Marrakesh on their side following their surprise 2-1 quarter-final win over Mexican outfit Monterrey.
Still, Atletico coach Cuca is not expecting his players to be fazed by a potentially hostile atmosphere in north-west Morocco.
"It was a surprise to everybody (Casablanca's last-eight win), Cuca said.
"We expected Monterrey to advance, because of its tradition.
"We didn't stop observing Raja, but it's a team with a different style compared to the Mexicans.
"Now we will have to play against the home team, but in the Copa Libertadores we also played under pressure against opposing fans. Our players are used to that."
Both of Casablanca's victories have come in dramatic fashion, with Faouzi Benzarti's men beating Monterrey in extra time after edging through their play-off against Auckland City 2-1 with an injury-time strike from Abdelilah Hafidi.
However, Mineiro represent a step up in calibre from their previous opponents, with Brazil international Jo and former Barcelona star Ronaldinho - appearing in his first Club World Cup since 2006 - among the Belo Horizonte club's ranks.
Casablanca midfielder Chemseddine Chtibi is undaunted by the task in front of his side, though, and is looking forward to the chance to compete against 2005 Ballon d'Or winner Ronaldinho.
"It's a huge occasion for us to be facing a team that has a global superstar like Ronaldinho," Chtibi said.
"He's a magical player and everybody dreams of sharing a pitch with him. We want to show we can play."