- Associated Press - Monday, December 14, 2015

YOKOHAMA, Japan (AP) - Neymar was missing from training on Monday, as European champion Barcelona started its preparations for the FIFA Club World Cup in Japan.

The influential Brazilian forward suffered a groin injury in Germany last week during a training session for the Champions League match with Bayer Leverkusen, which ended 1-1.

He is rated very doubtful for Barcelona’s semifinal showdown with China’s Guangzhou Evergrande on Thursday.

Barcelona was greeted by 226 children from its soccer school in Tokyo when stepping on to the pitch at the Mitsuzawa Stadium in Yokohama. The children then sang the club’s anthem, “El Cant del Barca,” as the players looked on.

Barcelona, which is bidding for a third Club World Cup title, is the tournament favorite but the Spanish club has not won in three matches, while Guangzhou is on a 28-match unbeaten run stretching back to May, shortly before World Cup-winning coach Luiz Felipe Scolari took charge.

Guangzhou - which beat Club America of Mexico 2-1 in the previous round - won the Asian Champions League title last month.

“It’s been a long trip,” Barcelona midfielder Sergio Busquets said. “We’ve tried to adapt to the time difference. Regarding the tournament, we are trying to deal with it in high spirits since it’s a tournament that is hard to win, because of the teams taking part in it.”

Barcelona remained top of the Spanish league, above Atletico Madrid on goal difference only. Real Madrid is five points below its fierce rivals after Sunday’s 1-0 defeat at Villarreal.

“We are here preparing for the Club World Cup and the only thing that is important right now is Guangzhou,” Busquets added. “Guangzhoiu has Brazilian players and has Scolari as manager, and has been unbeaten for quite a while. We just have to try to be better than them and to beat them.”

Barcelona won the Club World Cup in 2009 and 2011.

The tournament, which features the top clubs from FIFA’s six continental confederations plus the champion of the host country, returns to Japan for the first time since 2012. It was hosted in Morocco the previous two years.

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