Barca's world bid could prove costly

Updated: 2011-12-07 16:50


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Barca's world bid could prove costly

Barcelona's Lionel Messi reacts after a missed scoring opportunity against Levante UD during their Spanish first division soccer match at Nou Camp stadium in Barcelona, Dec 3, 2011. [Photo/Agencies]

TOKYO - Barcelona, while red-hot favourites to win their second Club World Cup in three years, know the 20,000-kilometre round trip to Japan and back could come at a heavy cost.

Locked in a tooth-and-nail battle with Real Madrid in La Liga, Barca face their bitter rivals in next weekend's 'Clasico' before immediately jetting off to the Far East.

The European champions join the Dec 8-18 Club World Cup at the semi-final stage along with Brazil's Santos, winners of South America's Libertadores Cup.

Japan's Kashiwa Reysol, who won their first J-League title at the weekend, take on Auckland City in the opening game of the seven-team FIFA competition on Thursday.

But Barcelona's collection of big-name players, led by Argentina's Lionel Messi, will be expected to lift the trophy - even if it turns out to be fool's gold.

Real Madrid lead Barca by three points at the top of La Liga, with a game in hand over Pep Guardiola's side heading into a potentially bruising encounter at the Bernabeu this Saturday.

A side boasting Spanish World Cup winners Xavi, Andres Iniesta, David Villa and Cesc Fabregas should still have enough in the tank to win in Japan.

"We'll need to adapt quickly," Fabregas told "It will be a long journey with time zone complications involved and we go into a tough game with very little time to prepare."

Barcelona, who beat Manchester United 3-1 at Wembley in May to win their fourth European Cup, face either Qatar's Al Sadd or Tunisian club Esperance on Dec. 15 in Yokohama.

The long-haul flight and quick turnaround after returning could take its toll on the Spaniards.

"This is Barcelona," added Fabregas. "We're obliged to win every game. It's what people expect. That makes it mandatory for us and we have to deliver."

Santos, who captured their third Libertadores Cup in June, almost 50 years after Pele inspired them to back-to-back titles in 1962 and 1963, could prove formidable opponents.

Barring shock defeats in their respective semi-finals, Barcelona will be casting envious eyes at prolific young striker Neymar, instrumental in his side's Libertadores triumph.

The Catalan giants are among several European clubs to have offered a fortune for Neymar but the 19-year-old pin-up recently signed a new deal to stay with Santos until 2014.

"There was a lot of talk about a move to Barcelona or Real Madrid," said Xavi. "But he is staying at Santos. He will become a great player. He has amazing ability."