FC Barcelona are set to lock horns with Luiz Felipe Scolari’s Guangzhou Evergrande Football Club in the semi final of the FIFA Club World Cup on Thursday.

Guangzhou Evergrande FC will be Barcelona’s first Chinese opponents in an official match. Former Brazilian manager Scolari has done a commendable job since taking over the reigns of the Chinese club in the summer. Unbeaten since May this year, Scolari led Guangzhou to the Asian Champions League and the Chinese Super League titles.

Luis Felipe Scolari’s Brazil made a humiliating exit from last year’s World Cup when they were thrashed 7-1 by Germany on home soil. He will be looking to overcome the demons of his past as he plots to upset the high flying Catalans at Yokohama’s Nissan Stadium on Thursday.

Luis Enrique’s FC Barcelona come into the semi final of the FIFA Club World Cup on the back of 2 successive draws in La Liga against Valencia and Deportivo La Coruna. Despite amassing just 2 points from their last 6, the Blaugrana currently sit at the summit of La Liga alongside Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid. However, they will most likely head into the New Year displaced from the top of the league as they will miss Gameweek 16 in La Liga on account of their participation in the Club World Cup.

Luis Enrique, who guided the Catalans to a prestigious treble in the summer, will be looking to cement his legacy in golden letters as he attempts to escort his Barcelona side to lift their fifth trophy of the calendar year in Japan.

Scolari: Neymar absence wont affect FC Barcelona

Speaking to the media ahead of his semi final clash against FC Barcelona on Thursday, Guangzhou manager Luis Felipe Scolari asserted that Brazilian winger Neymar’s absence from the starting line up will not affect the way the Catalans approach the game.

“Neymar is one of the three best players in the world and he has been progressing for the last five years,” said Scolari (via fourfourtwo.com). “His absence would affect any team aside from Barcelona, who have 25 players of a similar style.”

Neymar suffered a minor groin injury in training ahead of Barcelona’s Champions League clash with German club Bayer Leverkusen 10 days ago. He has been ruled out of the semi final against Guangzhou but is expected to be fit for the final on 20th December, 2015.

“Messi is always one of the three best players in the world,” Scolari continued. He plays in a position in which you have to mark not just him but also the entire team, because he makes the team play. Barcelona have many good players, like [Luis] Suarez or [Andres] Iniesta. You have to keep an eye on all of them.

Asked about the gulf in class between his side and the reigning European champions, Scolari defiantly replied, “We’re getting better every day. We improve day by day and that’s thanks to my players,” he said. “We know our qualities and those of Barcelona, who are one of the best teams in the world. My players are very motivated, they’ll play a good game.

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“We’re the champions of Asia and we knocked out America, the CONCACAF champions. We’ve won the right to be here. I respect Barca a lot but I have confidence in my team.”

Luis Enrique not taking Guangzhou lightly

FC Barcelona manager Luis Enrique warned his players to not take their Chinese opponents lightly as the Asturian aims to lift his 5th trophy of the calendar year.

“I don’t think the match against Guangzhou will be an easy one. We are not taking things for granted. Just look at what happened with America,” said Enrique (as quoted by goal.com).

“We cannot afford to make the mistake to think that we have no rivals at this tournament. We have analysed Guangzhou and they are very good on the ball. Their captain [Zheng Zhi] is a great player .”

Asked about the possibility of playing Neymar against Guangzhou, Enrique said, “I am not in favour of taking any risks with injured players like Neymar. We will have to wait and see whether he can play. We will have to win the semi-final first before playing the final.”