Sao Paulo coach Paulo Autuori is taking nothing for granted ahead of the Club World Championship.
The FIFA tournament which brings together the champions of the six continental confederations starts on Sunday, with South American champion Sao Paulo and European champion Liverpool the red-hot favorites to contest the final on Dec.18.
Both teams get a bye to the semifinals stage, with Sao Paulo facing the winner of Sunday’s quarterfinal between African champion Al Ahly and Asian champion Al Ittihad.
Autuori is taking things one step at a time.
“At this stage our primary concern is who we play first,” he said in Tokyo on Friday when asked about the quality of the Liverpool side.
“In this competition, it is difficult to judge what will happen — our first concern is our first adversary, and then we’ll think about Liverpool.”
Sao Paulo arrived in Japan on Wednesday, and coach Autuori told reporters that this early arrival means the team will be in tip-top physical and tactical shape come its Dec. 14 semifinal.
Liverpool, however, plays Middlesbrough in an English Premier League match on Saturday and is caught up in a congested fixture list not helped by the upcoming competition. The Reds arrive in Tokyo on Monday, hours before its semifinal opponent is decided when Australia’s Sydney FC plays Costa Rica’s Deportivo Saprissa and three days before its first match.
Artuouri rubbished suggestions that Liverpool will be suffering the effects of jet lag, pointing to the size of squad manager Rafael Benitez has at his disposal.
“A team like Liverpool is not going to be disadvantaged under any circumstances,” he said.
Sao Paulo is heading into the tournament at full strength, with a sprained ankle for 23-year-old defender Alex its only injury concern.
Autuori expressed concern over potential opponent Al Ahly, the Egyptian side currently 55 games undefeated — a world record that stretches back to July 2004.
But he knows Ittihad is likely to present the tougher challenge, with the likes of ex-Inter Milan striker Mohammed Kallon and Cameroon international Joseph-Desire Job in the Saudi Arabia side’s ranks.
Ahly ruffled Ittihad’s feathers on Tuesday when team officials said the Saudi side had unregistered players in its squad.
It is believed the allegations center on at least one of the four Brazilians in Ittihad’s squad.
Ittihad coach Anghel Iordanescu rejected the accusations on Thursday saying it was a psychological ploy to try to disturb his team.
But the Associated Press reported Friday that a FIFA media official confirmed organizers are investigating the matter further.
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