South American football expert Ed Malyon give sthe lowdown on Corinthians ahead of Chelsea's World Club Championship semi-final, and he believes the Blues are in for a tough time...
Rather predictably, the build-up to the Club World Cup final has been centred around the premise of a dichotomy of styles - the reckless abandon of South American flair, coming up against the grit and puff of Europe.
Simply put, this is miles away from reflecting the reality when it comes to Corinthians, as the Timão are one of the most European teams to ever emerge from South America.
In a continent where playing three at the back or a midfield diamond - just so you can focus the team around a central, number '10' playmaker - is common-place, Corinthians spurned tradition to play what at times was a strikerless 4-6--0 last season.
The shape is more likely to represent a 4-2-3-1 now, but despite it being very much the formation á la mode of 2011/12 across Europe, the way that Corinthians utilised it in winning the Copa Libertadores in June set them apart from their domestic and international rivals.
The team was built around a strong midfield two, and remains to be so. Ralf is the more defensive of the two-set, shielding his robust defensive four and shirking creative responsibilities in favour of simplicity and function. Alongside him, Paulinho serves as the transition man, a player that involves himself in defence, attack and everything in between - a modern, all-round midfielder that is destined for a move to Europe.
The big fear with winning a major South American trophy is usually that your squad may be stripped of its assets by the vultures of the old continent, but Corinthians success was so built on teamplay and work ethic that it was hard for the unimaginative European clubs to know who to take, with Leandro Castán's move to Roma the only big move of that ilk.
In fact, Corinthians' squad has arguably improved since their June triumph with the addition of Paulo Guerrero up front, with the Peruvian international returning to South America from a career in Germany with Bayern Munich and Hamburg.
Guerrero's all-action displays for his national team in the Copa America earned as many rave reviews for his defensive impact as his penetrative threat and he therefore fits in to this compact, well-organised side brilliantly, as well as providing a touch of quality that was sometimes lacking before.
Chelsea are 1.794/5 favourites to win in 90 minutes, with the Sao Paulo side out at 5.04/1. Given how tight we can expect the game to be, with Corinthians focussing on making themselves tough to break down, it is likely that Chelsea will trade at longer prices In-Play, so be aware of this when backing.
Here is where we may be able to bet with a bit more certainty. Corinthians modus operandi revolves around being the tough nut to crack, and Rafa Benitez will need to set up Chelsea to be smart. If he starts with a trio of playmakers like Eden Hazard, Juan Mata and Oscar, then his full-backs simply have to provide width and support otherwise the game will turn into a congested central warzone and won't be enjoyable to watch for anyone.
Having conceded just four goals in 14 games on their way to winning the Copa Libertadores, Corinthians' success is entirely built on their end of the pitch and of the four semi-finalists in the competition - two were expansive and good to watch, the other two functional - both of the more defensive sides got through due to the nature of tournament football.
Chelsea won their own continental crown on the back of such methods but ego has taken over and they are now intent on being an attacking, proactive side where it perhaps suited them far better to be a gritty, counter-attacking unit.
It looks unlikely to go beyond 2.5 goals and the 'unders' are nicely priced at 1.8810/11.
The Correct Score market is a tempter, with the narrow Chelsea win the most likely result, we'd be looking at 0-1 7.06/1 and 0-2 8.88/1 but another bet that looks tempting is Chelsea/under 2.5 goals when some liquidity arrives to the market.