With Chelsea now in Abu Dhabi for the Club World Cup, Mason Mount assesses our possible opponents and opportunities in the UAE...
On the eve of our Premier League clash with Manchester United in November, with training finished and team meetings complete, the Chelsea players gathered for dinner at a hotel a short drive from Stamford Bridge ahead of their usual pre-matchday overnight stay.
In one corner of the restaurant, football was once again captivating and engrossing those sat around the long table. Almost 7,000 miles away in the Uruguayan capital, Montevideo, the Copa Libertadores final was in full flow, an all-Brazilian contest for the continental title.
There were Chelsea connections sprinkled throughout the showpiece occasion. Former Blues defenders David Luiz and Filipe Luis started for Flamengo while Kenedy, now back at the club following a four-month loan spell in his homeland, came on as a substitute at the start of extra-time.
Yet it was Sao Paulo-based Palmeiras who prevailed and it will be they who represent CONMEBOL at this week’s Club World Cup in Abu Dhabi, joining like us at the semi-final stage.
Among those subscribing to extra homework that night in south-west London was Mason Mount, who joined the Brazilian-born duo of Thiago Silva and Jorginho in settling down to watch the action unfold.
The midfielder noted the passionate and purposeful approach of both sides at the historic Estadio Centenario, warning that Palmeiras would be formidable opponents if we do cross paths in a potential final on Saturday.
‘I watched the game with Thiago and Jorgi as we were having food at the hotel,’ revealed Mount. ‘Thiago had his iPad set up at the end of the table so we were able to watch the whole match.
‘Those two are from Brazil so they watch it a lot but I hadn’t seen that many games before. Palmeiras looked a very fiery and aggressive team, very hungry to win.
'They look like a good side. They won that final showing a lot of heart and we know any team that comes up against us wants to beat us.’
Both sides face a semi-final test first before thoughts turn to a possible Anglo-Brazilian final in the UAE with Palmeiras, like Chelsea, aiming to lift the world title for the first time. Our only previous appearance at the tournament came after our 2012 Champions League triumph but ended with defeat in the final at the hands of Corinthians, another Brazilian side.
For Mount, who had just entered his teenage years back then, the opportunity to help his boyhood club be crowned champions of the world for the first time is particularly stirring. He is hoping to be back in training soon having come off in extra-time on Saturday.
‘Our focus is always on the next game because they come thick and fast but we really want to win this tournament,’ he added.
‘We haven’t ever won it as a club so we want to win it, like every competition we’re in. We want to have that winning mentality and hopefully it will be a good trip for us.’