FC Barcelona forward Lionel Messi (C) trains with his team mates ahead of their clash with Al Sadd
Fresh from their glorious El Clasico defeat of great rivals Real Madrid in the Bernabeu, Barcelona kick off their Club World Cup campaign Thursday in a game they will be fully expected to win, reports AFP.
The European champions face Qatar's Al Sadd for a place in the intercontinental final, where they will face Brazil's Santos, who saw off home side Kashiwa Reysol 3-1 on Wednesday.
Nobody is giving Al Sadd, who were crowned kings of Asia last month, a chance against a Barca side that stormed back to the top of La Liga with last weekend's hugely impressive 3-1 away victory over Jose Mourinho's Real.
But if there is a chink in the Catalans' armour, it might be fatigue and jet lag—there is an eight-hour time difference between Japan and Spain to contend with.
They flew out to the Far East only hours after seeing off Mourinho's men, then endured a 13-hour flight before touching down on Sunday night just four days before their semi-final in Yokohama, near Tokyo.
"The Club World Cup is very important. We'd like to bring the title back and we will show you tomorrow the way we play," coach Pep Guardiola promised on the eve of the game, warning that in football you can always have "a surprise".
"It's the knockout stage so you'll never know what happens in 90 minutes," he said.
"We did have jet lag and it was difficult to adjust to the time difference. But yesterday we found ourselves in good condition," added Guardiola, who also promised "to show you what we did not show you last time".
The celebrated coach was referring to 2006, when Barca went down 1-0 to Brazil's Internacional, again in Japan. But inspired by Lionel Messi, the Spanish went one better three years later in the United Arab Emirates.
International midfielder, Andres Iniesta, 27, struck a confident tone, saying: "We'll move on to get the great title and have a great Christmas and year-end."
Al Sadd were underdogs when they beat Jeonbuk Motors in the AFC Champions League final in November on penalties.
And their experienced coach, the Uruguayan Jorge Fossati, refused to accept that Thursday's clash was a foregone conclusion against a side boasting the likes of Messi, Cesc Fabregas and Xavi.
"We are determined to give Barcelona a hard time," he said.
"We will go out with the determination to overcome Barcelona. I wish I could work magic, but in any way we will play our kind of football to the best of our ability.
"And I believe there will be a chance. At least we won't let Barcelona win easily.
"Tomorrow will be a special, special match. All the supporters in Qatar, from high officials to ordinary people, will be watching us."
Fossati, a former Qatar and Uruguay coach, said his unfancied side, who are taking part in the world club championship for the first time, had already made history.
"Our chance of winning may be slim but as long as there is a chance, we will move forward to it," he said.
"We have adjusted ourselves to the time difference. I think it is a positive factor. I want to take advantage of the plus.
"I pray to God and also pray that the Barcelona players won't sleep well."
Al Sadd set up the glamour tie after hitting the African champions Esperance on the break in their quarter-final, beating the Tunisians 2-1 despite having only four shots on goal all game.