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UEFA Women's Champions League Final Preview: Chelsea vs Barcelona

Ji So-yun
Chelsea will lock horns with Barcelona in the showpiece clash of the UEFA Women's Champions League, with both teams aiming to become the first club to win both the men's and women's UEFA Champions League titles. Who will create history in this epic battle between the English and Spanish champions at the Gamla Ullevi, Sweden on Sunday, May 16? 
Shibajee Das previews this mouth-watering UEFA Women's Champions League final.    
Image via Chelsea Women

Recent Form

WWWLD
Chelsea is coming into this match with their hopes of an unprecedented quadruple still intact. The Blues won back-to-back Barclays FA Women's Super League titles after a thumping 5-0 victory over Reading in the final league game of the season. Emma Hayes' girls have lost just two matches in all of 2021, a narrow league defeat to Brighton & Hove Albion and the first leg loss to Bayern Munich in the Champions League semi-final. In fact, the defeat to Brighton was Chelsea's only league defeat the entire season. 


WWWW
 
Barcelona has had an unreal league season so far. The Blaugranes have won all their 26 league matches, scoring an unbelievable 128 goals, conceding just five. Thus, they boast a goal difference of +123. Lluis Cortes' troops clinched their sixth successive Primera Iberdrola league title, the latest one wrapped up with eight matches to spare. Similar to their opponents, Barca has also lost just two matches since the turn of this year, a penalty shootout cup defeat to Atletico Madrid and a second leg loss to Manchester City in the Champions League quarter-final.  


Competition History

The two most successful side's in their respective domestic leagues will be up against each other in this final. However, both teams are yet to taste success on the continental front.

Chelsea's maiden participation in the UEFA Women's Champions League came in the 2015-16 season when they managed to reach the Round of 16, losing to eventual runners-up Wolfsburg. Their previous best performance before this season was reaching the semi-finals twice in 2018 and 2019. They have finally broken the jinx this season.

Barcelona, on the other hand, first participated in the 2012-13 season. Their record is slightly better than the Blues, having reached the semis twice in 2017 and 2020, along with a runners-up finish in 2019. The Catalan giants lost to serial winners Olympique Lyon in the final in Budapest but will be desperate to go one step further this time around.

Team News

Chelsea

The Blues are expected to line up in their favoured 4-2-3-1 setup, though they have also used a 4-3-3 setup occasionally. FA WSL Golden Glove winner Ann Katrin-Berger will be between the sticks, with Millie Bright and Magdalena Eriksson in front of her. Jess Carter and Jonna Andersson could get the nod in the full-back positions.

Photo Credit: Sam Kerr

Moving to the midfield, Melanie Leupolz and Sophie Ingle will provide solidity in front of the back four. Ji So-yun will provide the creative spark. Whereas, the trio of Fran Kirby, Pernille Harder and FA WSL Golden Boot winner Sam Kerr is the most lethal attacking trio right now.      

Barcelona

As for Barca, they are expected to line up in their preferred 4-3-3 formation. The biggest worry for them would be the absence of key centre-back Andrea Pereira who is suspended for this match. Sandra Panos will be in goal, with a makeshift all-Spanish back four consisting of Mapi Leon, Patri Guijarro, Leila Ouahabi and Marta Torrejon. The three slots in midfield will go to Alexia Putellas, Aitana Bonmati and either Vicky Losada or Kheira Hamraoui. 

Photo Credit: FC Barcelona

The Catalan side's front three is also a deadly combination. Jenni Hermoso, Barcelona's leading goal-scorer in the league this season, will be the centre forward with the world-class duo of Caroline Graham Hansen and Lieke Martens down the flanks.  

Head-to-Head

Both teams have never faced each other in competitive matches. The only previous meeting was a friendly fixture at the Miniestadi, Barcelona in August 2018, which had ended in a 1-1 draw.


Who to Watch

Ji So-yun

Photo Credit: UEFA Women's Champions League

Ji So-yun has been ever-presence in the Chelsea midfield this season. Her experience and adaptability have been a crucial factor, playing in a deep midfield position when asked to do so as well as in her more preferred advanced role. 

The five-time Korean Women's Footballer of the Year is one of the longest-serving players in the club's history. The importance of Ji in this team can't be measured in just goals, with her experience and calm head having helped the Blues win several battles over the years.     

Having been a part of the club since 2014, the 30-year-old has never had a more promising season than the current campaign. With the FA Women's Super League and the FA Women's League Cup already secured, Chelsea could add the most coveted title on top of that. Ji became the third Korean footballer after Park Ji-sung and Son Heung-min to reach the UEFA Champions League final and is now aiming to become the first player to feature in and win the final. 


2020-21 UWCL stats                    2020-21 FA WSL stats
Appearances - 7                           Appearances - 19  
Minutes Played - 480                  Minutes Played - 1317
Goals - 1                                       Goals - 2


Lieke Martens

Photo Credit: UEFA Women's Champions League

Lieke Martens
has been at her usual clinical best for Barcelona this season. With a knack for popping up with vital goals during crucial matches, she is an invaluable asset for any team. 

The Dutch superstar had netted thrice across two legs against PSV Eindhoven in the early stages of the campaign but showed her true worth in the semi-finals. With their backs against the wall, Martens scored two well-taken goals against PSG in the second leg of the semis which helped Barca qualify for the final 3-2 on aggregate.

The 2017 UEFA Women's Player of the Year had helped her side reach the Champions League final in just her second season at the club, only to suffer heartbreak at the hands of Lyon. The 28-year-old winger will now hope that it's a second time lucky, as they aim to get their hands on the most sought after silverware.


2020-21 UWCL stats                    2020-21 Primera Iberdrola stats
Appearances - 7                            Appearances - 21        
Minutes Played - 446                   Minutes Played - 1265 
Goals - 5                                        Goals - 11

Final Venue

Gamla Ullevi, Gothenburg

Photo Credit: Svensk Fotboll

The 20th edition of the UEFA Women's Champions League final will be held at Gamla Ullevi in Gothenburg, Sweden. The stadium is the national arena of the Swedish women's national football team and three men's teams - IFK Goteborg from the top-flight and second division outfits GAIS and Orgryte IS.   

Old Ullevi was completed in the year 1916 and was called "Scandinavia's most modern football field". In 2007, the arena was demolished and the new arena was inaugurated two years later. Sweden defeated Brazil 3-1 in the inaugural match with Lotta Schelin, the ambassador for the final at Gamla Ullevi, on the scoresheet that day.

Kopparbergs/Goteborg FC, now known as BK Hacken Women, played the first-ever UEFA Women's Champions League match here when they played hosts to Bayern Munich in 2019. This historic stadium, which has been the backdrop of many memorable football matches will now host the next big match with footballing history poised to be written here.

Where to Watch

The match will be available to watch for free on UEFA.tv. Simply log in and enjoy! 
Kick-off is at 4:00 AM KST (May 17).





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