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Junji Kurokawa, Associated Press
FC Barcelona's Lionel Messi of Argentina, center, and his team players pose with Japanese orphans following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami from Fukushima Prefecture after the players handed over them the team jerseys printed with their family names during their meeting in Yokohama, near Tokyo, Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2011. European champion Barcelona players are currently in Japan for the Club World Cup matches.

YOKOHAMA, Japan — Beating Real Madrid 3-1 last weekend will make things easier on Barcelona as it bids for another title at the Club World Cup, defender Gerard Pique said Tuesday.

European champion Barcelona will face Qatari club Al-Sadd in the semifinals on Thursday, with the winner advancing to take on either South American champion Santos or J-League side Kashiwa Reysol.

"Those were three important points as we try to win our league," Pique said. "If you lose that game, it would have been tough to get on the plane and fly all the way here so it will be a lot easier on us."

Barcelona is returning to the tournament two years after claiming the title in the United Arab Emirates, with Lionel Messi scoring the winning goal in the 2-1 win over Argentine club Estudiantes.

Barcelona midfielder Javier Mascherano echoed the sentiments of Pique.

"It was an important win," Mascherano said. "But now we have to focus on this game. We know Al-Sadd is a physical team, they are strong and in this kind of tournament it is difficult to play a team like that."

Before Tuesday's practice, Pique and his teammates met with students affected by the devastating March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

"We had a chance to give them some shirts, so it was nice," Pique said. "They have been through some very tough times so it was good to give them some happiness and help them to forget about things for a bit."

About 40 students from schools in the no-go zone near the crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant attended Tuesday's practice to get a glimpse of their heroes.

Asian champion Al-Sadd progressed to the semifinals with a 2-1 win over African champion Esperance of Tunisia.

Barcelona lost to Brazilian club Internacional 1-0 in the 2006 Club World Cup final but is now looking to extend a four-year winning streak of European clubs.

The Club World Cup is back in Japan for the first time since 2008 after two editions in the United Arab Emirates.