Barca women’s quadruple bid faces Chelsea Champions League challenge

Dominant European champions Barcelona aim to keep its quadruple quest on track when it faces Chelsea in the Women’s Champions League semifinals on Saturday.

Jonatan Giraldez’s side, which lifted the trophy for the second time last season, host the Blues in the first-leg clash at the Olympic Stadium on the city’s Montjuic hill.

They met at the same stage last season and Barcelona ousted Chelsea 2-1 on aggregate in a tight battle, although the Catalans also smashed the English side 4-0 in the 2021 final.

With the Spanish Super Cup pocketed, a Copa de la Reina final place booked and a luxurious 12-point lead in Liga F, Barcelona want to carve out a head start on Chelsea before the return at Stamford Bridge next week.

Giraldez is departing at the end of the season to take over American NWSL side Washington Spirit and his players hope to see him go out on a high.

“I am sure the girls will want to win trophies for him so he can leave on a really positive note,” Barcelona midfielder Keira Walsh told reporters Wednesday.

“He has had a massive impact here at Barca, everyone really likes playing for him and hopefully we can get the job done.”

Chelsea’s coach Emma Hayes is also heading to the United States, to take over the women’s national team.

ALSO READ | Israeli football facing Palestinian calls for action by FIFA at annual congress

Her team’s hopes of sending her off in style have crumbled in recent weeks, with FA Cup elimination and defeat in the League Cup final.

“They won’t be thinking about that and we won’t,” added Walsh.

“It’s the Champions League so everyone comes in to it with a different mindset.”

With Ballon d’Or winners Aitana Bonmati and Alexia Putellas driving forces, the Catalans have reached six consecutive Champions League semi-finals.

Chelsea will be without injured striker Sam Kerr, but boast a wealth of talented players including Lauren James and Guro Reiten.

The Blues lead the Women’s Super League on goal difference from Manchester City after easing to victory against Aston Villa midweek with four games to go in the title race.

All-French battle

Whoever wins between Barcelona and Chelsea will face French opposition in the final in Bilbao at the end of May, as Lyon take on domestic foes Paris Saint-Germain in the other last-four tie.

Lyon, who lost in the quarter-finals on penalties to Chelsea last season, are targeting a record-extending ninth Champions League title.

They have to be considered favourites to at least reach the final in what could well be coach Sonia Bompastor’s last season at the helm — she has been heavily linked with taking over from Hayes at Chelsea at the end of the campaign.

The tie is a repeat of the semi-final of two years ago, which Lyon won 5-3 on aggregate before going on to lift the trophy by beating Barcelona in Turin.

Lyon also beat PSG in the last four in 2020 and emerged victorious on penalties when the teams clashed in the final in 2017.

Current form also favours OL, who have beaten and drawn with the Parisians in the French league this season, and are nine points clear at the top of the table.

In addition, Lyon look set to receive a big boost amid reports that their Norwegian former Ballon d’Or-winning striker, Ada Hegerberg, is set to sign a new contract to stay at the club into next season.

PSG are a team in transition having lost key players prior to this campaign, notably France forward Kadidiatou Diani, who moved to Lyon, and Canada’s Ashley Lawrence who signed for Chelsea.

They do have a formidable attacking duo in Marie-Antoinette Katoto and Tabitha Chawinga — the latter, who comes from Malawi, is the top scorer in France this season and has netted five times in the Champions League.

Source Link

About The Author


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *