Real Madrid s Luka Modric, center, takes a shot on goal during the Spanish La Liga soccer match between Real Madrid and Real Sociedad, at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Sunday, Jan. 29, 2023. AP
The Spanish powerhouse will be looking for a record-extending eighth title at the tournament which begins this week in Morocco.
``It's always a pleasure to play in this competition, because to be in it, you have to win the Champions League,'' said former Madrid player Emilio Butragueno, the club's director of institutional relations. ``It means that the team had great success in the previous season.''
Madrid was successful the last five times it played for the club world title following triumphs in the Champions League. It did it in 2014 and from 2016-18 at the FIFA-organized Club World Cup, and also in 2002 in what was called the Intercontinental Cup _ a one-game final between the European and South American champions. Madrid last failed to win the world title in 2000, when it lost the Intercontinental Cup to Argentine club Boca Juniors.
European clubs don't always give a lot of importance to the Club World Cup, partly because it often comes in the middle of their season. But Madrid was one of the first to take it more seriously, and it has been proudly promoting its recent triumphs at the competition.
``It's important for our team to be well, to have all of our players available despite a very demanding calendar,'' Butragueno said. ``We know that if our team is at a high level, we can compete and succeed against anyone.''
Madrid won the Club World Cup the last time it was played in Morocco, in 2014. Playing in the neighboring country makes for a shorter trip for the Spanish club compared to when the competition was played in the Middle East.
Madrid will only debut next week, and its opponent could be the Seattle Sounders from Major League Soccer, the CONCACAF champion and the first United States team to qualify for the Club World Cup.
The Sounders will first play either Al Ahly of Egypt or Auckland City of New Zealand, which will meet in the earlier round.
The final will be on Feb. 11, and Madrid's most probable opponent will be Brazilian club Flamengo, the Copa Libertadores champion in South America.
Madrid is not expected to travel to Morocco until just before its debut because it still has two Spanish league games to play, at home against Valencia on Thursday and at Mallorca on Sunday.
Madrid got off to a good start to the season, winning 14 of its first 16 games, with no losses, but it hasn't been at its best recently. It won only two of its last seven matches in a stint that included defeat against rival Barcelona in the Spanish Super Cup final in Saudi Arabia.
Madrid is coming off a 0-0 draw at home against Real Sociedad in the Spanish league on Sunday, a result that left the defending champions five points behind leader Barcelona. It was the first time the team was held scoreless this season in all competitions.
``January has been tough for us,'' Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti said. ``But the team has been improving and it will get better. We will be competitive.''
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