ABU DHABI • Real Madrid will bid to win their third straight Fifa Club World Cup when they take on Asian champions Kashima Antlers in the semi-finals at the United Arab Emirates' Zayed Sports City Stadium today.
The key difference from their previous three triumphs in 2014, 2016 and last year is that they will have to cope without the effervescent Cristiano Ronaldo.
The Portuguese forward, who joined Juventus in the summer, scored the winner in last year's final against Brazilian side Gremio.
He was also the star in the 2016 final against Kashima, netting a hat-trick in the 4-2 extra-time victory.
The Spanish giants have struggled without him this season, and have also sacked Julen Lopetegui in October and replaced him with current manager Santiago Solari.
The new man at the helm is also under pressure after Real were stunned 3-0 by Russian side CSKA Moscow in the Champions League last week - their biggest home defeat in Europe.
But Real captain Sergio Ramos is confident that his side can still win their fourth Club World Cup title without their former talisman.
"I think on the pitch, there won't be much difference (to previous years), despite the absence of Cristiano Ronaldo, who was a key player for us. We're going to compete with the club's same philosophy as always: to win," he said.
"We have good memories in this competition because we've had success in the past. It's a short competition and there's no room for mistakes. There's a semi-final and then the final... And we want to take the Cup home to Madrid."
If Real beat the Asian Football Confederation Champions League winners, they will face either South American champions River Plate or UAE side Al-Ain in Saturday's final. The two sides played the first semi-final early this morning (Singapore time).
Kashima are determined to make amends for their heartbreaking extra-time loss to Real on home soil two years ago.
"Last time in Japan, in the 2016 final, we made a great impact on a lot of people," said Kashima manager Go Oiwa, who was assistant to Masatada Ishii in the 2016 final.
"Against Madrid we really wanted to win, that's how we thought. Yes we lost, it was disappointing, but we now have a stage to show our disappointment.
"This match is going to get a lot of attention. We will try to play aggressively and show our own game from the beginning against Real.
"That's how we feel as we try to take the challenge to Real."