Jesus faces familiar faces as Liverpool await

Jesus faces familiar faces as Liverpool await

Flamengo coach Jorge Jesus. (Reuters Photo)

The coach of a Brazilian club could in normal circumstances be forgiven for not being overly familiar with Saudi Arabian opposition but Flamengo's Jorge Jesus has no such excuse.

Tuesday's Club World Cup semi-final pits Jesus against the Saudi club he coached last year, Al Hilal, the current Asian Champions League winners.

The prize for the victors will be a place in the final against either Mexico's Monterrey or if the form book prevails, European champions Liverpool.

"I know them (Al Hilal) very well. There is only one player in their squad that I didn’t coach. Maybe in these competitions, there would many European coaches who wouldn't know them but I know their strengths," he told a news conference.

Al Hilal's AFC title came after Jesus had left the club following a dispute over his contract, but the Flamengo manager's impact at both teams has been noticeable.

He laid the foundations for Al Hilal's success, picking up 16 wins and suffering only one defeat in 20 matches before he left the club in late January.

"I am very proud of my period with Al Hilal and recruited three or four players for them. They are a good side and we respect them but I am obviously focused on my job at Flamengo where I am honoured to be the coach," he said.

 FRESH PERSPECTIVE

Less than six months after leaving the Gulf, Jesus took over Rio club Flamengo, leading them to the Copa Libertadores title in November with victory over Argentina's River Plate and then their first Brazilian Serie A title since 2009.

Beyond the trophies, the coach's methods have shaken up Brazil’s domestic game, bringing a fresh tactical perspective.

Jesus’s insistence on a high-tempo pressing game with the onus on possession is common in Europe but not in Brazil and his methods have won him plaudits.

Flamengo already had one of Brazil’s best squads and since Jesus arrived they have added two former Brazil full backs, Rafinha from Bayern Munich and Filipe Luis from Atletico Madrid, as well as influential midfielder Gerson from AS Roma.

The man who replaced him at Al Hilal, Romanian Razvan Lucescu, son of former Brescia and Inter Milan coach Mircea, was peppered with questions about his predecessor but was dismissive of the notion that his players' knowledge of their former boss's methods would influence the outcome.

"I don't think it comes into it. It is eleven against eleven. This game is all about how you react in certain moments, the decisions you make," said Lucescu.

Al Hilal reached the last four thanks to a delightful goal by substitute Bafetimbi Gomis in a 1-0 win against Tunisia's Esperance.

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