Barcelona aim for Club World Cup hat-trick

Sergio Busquets (Supplied)
Sergio Busquets (Supplied)

Yokohama - Barcelona were mobbed by Japanese fans on Monday after holding their first training session at the Club World Cup.

The European champions, bidding to become the first team to win the competition three times, held a gentle run-out in Yokohama after being greeted like rock stars on their arrival in Japan earlier in the day.

Brazilian star Neymar, who is struggling with a groin strain, sat out the practice but his strike partners Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez appeared in a relaxed mood as they prepared for Thursday's semi-final against Chinese side Guangzhou Evergrande.

"Obviously Guangzhou have proved they are a strong team," Barca midfielder Sergio Busquets told reporters.

"We know they have a good mix of decent players, including some Brazilians, and we won't be taking the game lightly. Hopefully we can play our style of football because we have come to Japan to win the title again."

He added: "The main thing is dealing with the jet-lag and making sure we are properly prepared and ready to go, but we know it won't be easy."

Barca players posed briefly for photos and signed autographs for fans, with Messi and Andres Iniesta drawing their loudest cheers from a crowd of around 200 mostly local fans.

Despite drawing their last three games, two in La Liga bookending a 1-1 deadlock at Bayer Leverkusen in the Champions League, Barca's spirits will have been lifted after Real Madrid suffered a shock 1-0 defeat by Villarreal on Sunday.

That result leaves Real five points adrift of Barcelona at the top of the league, providing the Catalan giants with a tonic after flying 6,600 miles (10,700km) to play in the Far East.

Barcelona, who were held to a 2-2 draw by Deportivo La Coruna before flying out to Japan, must overcome a dogged Guangzhou side led by former Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari and packing an attacking threat in the Brazilian pair Robinho and Paulinho.

The Asian champions beat Mexico's Club America 2-1 at the weekend to earn a shot at Barca.

"We only caught the start of the game before boarding the plane," said Busquets. "But the Chinese team made the semi-finals so they can be dangerous if we don't play our best."

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