Red-hot Liverpool squares off with Rayados

Rodolfo Pizarro and some of his Monterrey mates will hope to impress European scouts when they take on Liverpool in the Club World Cup semifinal match. (Photo by Simon Holmes/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Rodolfo Pizarro and some of his Monterrey mates will hope to impress European scouts when they take on Liverpool in the Club World Cup semifinal match. (Photo by Simon Holmes/NurPhoto via Getty Images) /

Monterrey is playing in its fourth FIFA Club World Cup but they are the clear underdog against the UEFA Champions League holders.

Antonio Mohamed and his Rayados of Monterrey face off against the mighty Reds of Liverpool on Wednesday in Doha, Qatar, in the semifinals of the FIFA Club World Cup. The winner will move on to face Brazil’s Flamengo, a 3-1 winner over Saudi club Al-Hilal in the other semifinal.

History suggests the Liga MX team won’t be in the final, but who’s to say the Rayados can’t pull off the upset? After all, Monterrey boasts the biggest payroll in the Liga MX, right? Yes, that’s true, but the Rayados wage scale represents only 13% of Liverpool’s player valuations.

Monterrey participated in three straight Club World Cups (2011, 2012 and 2013) but not a single player remains from those teams, so “experience” is not a factor against Liverpool, whose only other appearance here came back in 2005 when they finished second to Brazil’s Sao Paulo.

Can Rayados buck Liga MX trend?

Mexican teams have qualified for 15 of the 16 Club World Cups since the tournament was first staged in 2000 and not a single one has reached the final. Mexico has been a fixture at this tournament, winning the Concacaf Champions League each of the past 14 seasons, but success at this stage has been quite limited.

Rayados face Liverpool
Real Madrid’s Raúl is denied by Necaxa goalie Hugo Pineda during the third-place playoff of the 2000 World Club Cup at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro. Necaxa won the game 4-3 on penalties after a 1-1 draw. (Photo: Shaun Botterill /Allsport) /

The best Liga MX performance has been a third-place finish. Necaxa finished third in the inaugural Club World Cup in 2000 (beating Real Madrid on penalties in the third-place contest), and Monterrey (2012) and Pachuca (2017) matched that feat. But that’s about it.

The way the tournament is set up, the reigning UEFA Champions League winner and the reigning Copa Libertadores holder open as semifinalists and teams from Concacaf, Asia, Africa, Oceania and the host country play to advance to the final four.

Monterrey’s victory over Al-Sadd on Saturday was only the eighth time that a Liga MX team won its opening match at the Club World Cup and in each of the seven previous instances that team then lost in the semifinal. Five of those seven matches were against the UEFA Champions League winner and the Liga MX has come up short each time to the tune of 2 goals for and 16 goals against.

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In 2006, Barcelona spanked América 4-0 and in 2009 Barça beat Atlante 3-1. Monterrey came up short against Chelsea in 2012, losing 3-1. In 2014, Real Madrid crushed Cruz Azul 4-0 and in 2016 los Merengues held off América 2-0.

The Rayados come into the match against the Reds on a rather impressive streak. Mohamed took over as coach on Oct. 9 with La Pandilla in danger of missing the playoffs. But with “El Turco” in charge, the Rayados have not lost since then, posting a neat 6-3-0 record, including a 3-1-0 record in the playoffs that has them in the Liga MX finals.

Liverpool boasts a much stronger record, however, and is considered by many to be the best team in the world. The Reds are 16-1-0 in the Premier League and their only loss this term came in their opening group stage match of the UEFA Champions League, a 2-0 setback against “Chucky” Lozano and Napoli. Of course, Liverpool then roared back to finish top of the group with a 4-1-1 record.

Back in that 2005 Club World Cup, Liverpool defeated Saprissa (the only time a non-Mexican team represented Concacaf) by a 3-0 score before falling 1-0 to Sao Paulo.