Even if they lift the FIFA Club World Cup for the second consecutive year, Barcelona are unlikely to consider their trip to Japan a success. In their semifinal match against Asian champions Al-Sadd, David Villa broke his leg. It's possible that he will be out for the rest of the season and miss Euro 2012 as a result. Barcelona will play a strong side and go for the trophy, but it wouldn't be surprising if that injury altered Pep Guardiola's attitude towards the final slightly. This is in stark contrast to their opponents, Santos FC.
For Santos, this tournament is just as important as the Brasileirao and the Copa Libertadores. Given their attitude towards this season's Brasileirao, the Club World Cup might be even more important to them than their domestic league. A victory over Barcelona would be the highlight of their season, and the highlight of the young careers of budding stars like Neymar and Ganso.
Both of those players, along with future Porto player Danilho were brilliant against Kashiwa Reysol in the semifinal. Borges, the journeyman veteran striker who was the top scorer in Brazil this past season, also had a brilliant goal in that match. Santos look like they're highly motivated and in top form, and there's no reason to believe that Barcelona will simply walk through them.
In this match and occasionally in the future, the replacement for David Villa is likely to be Isaac Cuenca, the up and coming winger/forward who has made a name for himself both for scoring goals and looking funny. He's a lanky player with spectacular dribbling skills, and he's displayed a decent finishing touch as well. How he and Eric Abidal play against Danilo will be interesting to watch, and the battles down that flank could be the most entertaining in the match.
If you live in the United States, you'll be rolling out of bed early for this one. Kickoff is at 5:30 a.m. ET from the Toyota Stadium in Japan.
For more on the Club World Cup final, check out FC Barcelona blog Barca Blaugranes.