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Saturday May 18 is a historic date for FC Barcelona. The men’s team have been crowned champions of Europe five times over the years. But now it’s the turn of the women to try to follow suit as they compete in the final of the UEFA Women’s Champions League for the very first time. Victory would make FC Barcelona the first club to have won both the male and female versions of Europe's premier club competition.
But they’ll have to do it the hard way. Olympique Lyonnais are widely regarded as the strongest team in the continent, and are looking to win the title for the fourth time in a row (6.00pm CEST).
Opened in 2013, the 22,000 capacity state-owned Ferencváros Stadion in Budapest is the home of 30-time winners of the Hungarian league Ferencvárosi TC. It is currently the largest stadium in the country, until work is complete on the new 68,000 capacity national stadium, the Puskás Aréna, later this year.
Over a 1,200 Barça fans are expected to be in the stadium to cheer on our girls!
CHAMPIONS LEAGUE HISTORY
Since first appearing in the tournament in 2012/13, and going out to Arsenal 7-0 on aggregate in their first match, FC Barcelona have made steady progress in the competition. The following year, 2013/14, they made it to the quarter finals for the first time, losing to Wolfsburg of Germany. Two years later, they went one better by reaching the semi-finals, where they eventually fell to Paris Saint Germain, and two years after that and they’re into their first final!
In the last twelve years, Olympique have only twice failed to reach at least the semi-finals of this competition, and have reached seven finals, winning five of them including the last three. In fact, they have only lost two of their last 35 Champions League matches, and neither of those two defeats really mattered either as they still qualified on aggregate.
HEAD TO HEAD
The only previous competitive meeting between the sides was in the quarter finals of last season’s edition. The French side won 2-1 at home and then 1-0 in front of over 12,000 people at the Miniestadi.
The two other occasions when Barça have crossed paths with a French team, both against PSG, also resulted in Catalan elimination, while Lyon’s only other meeting with a Spanish Liga team resulted in a 9-1 drubbing of Atlético Madrid three years ago.
ROAD TO BUDAPEST
(All scores aggregate over two legs)
Round of 32
Lyon 7-0 Avaldsnes (Norway)
Barça 4-3 BIIK Kazygurt (Kazakhstan)
Round of 16
Lyon 13-0 Ajax (Holland)
Barça 8-0 Glasgow City (Scotland)
Lyon 6-3 VfL Wolfsburg (Germany)
Barça 4-0 LSK Kvinner (Norway)
Lyon 3-2 Chelsea (England)
Barça 2-0 Bayern Munich (Germany)
Lyon have just won the French championship for the 13th time in a row, and did so without losing a match, scoring 89 goals and conceding just six. They also won the Coupe de France to complete their seventh league and cup double in eight years.
For the fourth year in a row, FC Barcelona had to settle for second place in the Spanish Liga, finishing six points adrift of champions Atlético Madrid. The fixture between the two at the Wanda Metropolitano due a world record crowd for a women’s club match, a spectacular 60,739 people.
Atlético also knocked Barça out of the Copa de la Reina, although that title eventually went to Real Sociedad.
The French trio of Wendie Renard, Eugénie Le Sommer and goalkeeper Sarah Bouhaddi are all chasing a record sixth UWCL winners medal, while arguably the team’s biggest star is Norwegian Ada Hegerberg, the club’s top league scorer this season with 20 goals.
The local fans are sure to get behind Dzsenifer Marozsán, voted second best player in the world last year, and who was born in Budapest but brought up in Germany, where her father was a professional footballer.
The team also features two regulars for the English national team, Izzy Christiansen and Lucy Bronze, plus Jess Fishlock who has over 100 caps for Wales, one of the best players ever to come out of Canada, Kadeisha Buchanan, and a World Cup winner for Japan in Saki Kumagai.
The Barça squad includes five players that will be appearing at the World Cup later this year: Asisat Oshoala (Nigeria, provisional squad), Andressa Alves (Brazil), Toni Duggan (England), Stefanie van der Gragt (Holland) and 2017 FIFA World Player of the Year Lieke Martens (Holland), not to mention the several players expected to be named in the as-yet unannounced Spain team.
Sadly, midfielder Kheira Hamraoui misses out on the chance to face her former team through suspension, while Patricia Guijarro and Pamela Tajonar are both injured. All three have joined the team in Budapest anyway.
Barça’s top scorer in the league this season was Alexia Putellas with 16, while Aitana Bonmatí netted 12. In Europe, however, it’s Duggan who leads the way with five. Goalkeeper Sandra Paños topped the Spanish rankings with an average of 0.4 goals conceded per game.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Lluis Cortés (coach): “We’re feeling good. Getting to the final is a reward in itself and whatever happens, this is just the start of a long process. A clean sheet would be a good sign. We are working well in defence, we have the best goalie in the league and if we have the ball they won’t be able to create chances. We might not be as tall as Lyon but we can mitigate that by not conceding corners and set-pieces near the box. Lyon have a good quality team but they are not invincible., Chelsea gave them a tough time and last year we only lost to them by one goal in each leg."
Lieke Martens: “We know Olympique have very good players but I feel good about my team and we are highly motivated. I’m very happy at this club. I want to stay here for another year.”
Vicky Losada: “The feelings are overwhelming – but if we hadn’t played Lyon before, it would be worse. We know how they work, and we have gained respect from them. We have also been doing very well, and we’ll try to impose our style. Whatever happens in this game, we know this is just the beginning of something that can only lead to good things. Of course we want to win everything, just like the men.”
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