JAPAN, December 17 – Luis Suarez fired a hat-trick as Barcelona overcame the loss of Lionel Messi to kidney problems to beat China’s Guangzhou Evergrande 3-0 and reach the Club World Cup final on Thursday.
The Spanish giants will face Argentina’s River Plate in Yokohama on Sunday when they will be chasing a record third title.
The European champions were rocked before the semi-final when Messi was forced out with abdominal pain from renal colic, commonly caused by kidney stones, which could also rule him out of the final.
Barca missed Messi’s wizardry and the talents of his Brazilian strike partner Neymar, who was rested as he recovers from a groin strain.
They toiled to break down Evergrande’s massed ranks of defenders until Suarez pounced six minutes before half-time, poking in the loose ball after goalkeeper Li Shuai parried Ivan Rakitic’s drive from the edge of the box.
The Uruguayan grabbed his second five minutes after the break when he latched onto a clever Andres Iniesta pass, bringing the ball down on his chest before volleying past Li to the delight of most in the crowd of 63,000.
Suarez completed his treble from the penalty spot in the 67th minute, his 21st goal of the season.