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Chelsea vs. Barcelona, Women’s Champions League Final: Preview, team news, how to watch

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Chance to make history

Chelsea FC Training Session and Press Conference - UEFA Women’s Champions League Final 2021 Photo by David Lidstrom/Getty Images

Since 2016, French giants Olympique Lyonnais have lorded over women’s football. Their inevitability and dominance was akin to the Eye of Sauron, peering menacingly over their vast European domain. Having won the Women’s Champions League seven times in total, Lyon are just one of seven ever winners of the prestigious competition. But PSG showed that even the most unbeatable eventually get beaten, and for the first time in five years, Lyon won’t be playing for the European cup. With the biggest giant in women’s football slain, a new champion is about to emerge.

In just a few short hours, the Women’s Champions League trophy will be claimed for the first time in a club’s history. Both Chelsea FCW and FC Barcelona Femení will be desperate for victory, each having come close before, but never quite winning it all, and looking to put an emphatic final stamp on their seasons of complete dominance.

Chelsea FC Training Session and Press Conference - UEFA Women’s Champions League Final 2021 Photo by David Lidstrom/Getty Images

Date / Time: Sunday, May 16th, 2021, 8:00pm BST; 3:00pm EDT; 12:30am IST (next day)
Venue: Gamla Ullevi Stadium in Gothenburg, Sweden
Referee: Riem Hussein (Germany)
Forecast: Mild temperatures, Rain likely

On TV: None BT Sport 2 (UK); none (USA); elsewhere
Streaming: BT Sport App (UK); Paramount + (USA) Chelsea’s 5th Stand (International)

Chelsea FCW team news: Chelsea FCW have been enjoying the winningest season in club history. A defeat at the final hurdle would’t take away from what the Blues have accomplished, but it would serve as heavy disappointment to stumble at this point, this close to achieving one of the greatest seasons in the history of European football.

It’s so rare for any team to win with the consistency of Chelsea. For this team, winning every game feels almost certain. The typical nerves disappear, replaced by serene confidence. Even if the odds are against, the fear of failure never even enters the conversation. After winning consecutive league titles, fighting for a quadruple, and generally being the best thing going at Chelsea Football Club, one could be forgiven for feeling like we are destined to leave Gothenburg with the Champion’s League trophy. In order to do so though, we’ll face our most difficult opponent of the season. Don’t be fooled by Barcelona’s lack of European success. They won’t be by ours.

One of the joys of following Chelsea FCW are the numerous feel good story lines surrounding the club and players. Fran Kirby’s remarkable recovery from pericarditis, culminating in her winning the FWA’s Women’s Footballer of the Year, is one of the most amazing stories in sports. Her unbelievable connection with the always smiling Sam Kerr has been equally fun, on and off the field. How about the reliability of Ann-Katrin Berger, who has saved Chelsea blushes on multiple occasions? Then there is Emma Hayes. It has been so satisfying to see her achieving goals she knew she was capable of, even when they seemed so far in the distance.

Chelsea’s biggest advantage is likely our ruthlessness in front of goal. As surprising as it may be for a team with 128 league goals, Barcelona haven’t always been clinical, perhaps in part because of the extreme number of chances they create. Chelsea on the other hand have had a killing edge of late. Sam Kerr has been the most ruthless. Gone are the punditry narratives about her lack of finishing. She leads the team in goals, some of them from rather spectacular angles, with her instinct for scoring consistently putting her a step ahead her defenders trying to hopelessly mark her. A goal in the Champions League final, the biggest spotlight in world football, is what she was born for.

It’s fairly assured that Melanie Leupolz and Sophie Ingle will play in front of center backs Magda Eriksson and Millie Bright. Since Eriksson’s return from injury, Ingle has slotted back into her midfield role alongside Leupolz. Ji So-yun looks to have regained her spark recently and appears set to complete the midfield trio. As has been the case in the two previous rounds, the play of Chelsea’s fullbacks will be vital. In our previous match, against Reading, Jess Carter started on the left while Niamh Charles took up an attacking role on the right. If Emma Hayes chooses to start the same pair, Carter’s role will be particularly important, given that she’ll be on the same side as Caroline Graham Hansen.

In goal, Ann-Katrin Berger has proven time and time again that she can stand on her head and win games by herself. Hopefully we won’t need her to do so, though Barcelona are particularly impressive in creating chances at the far post with crosses and other balls into the box. Berger and the defenders will have to be most alert to those.

FC Barcelona Femení team news: Like Chelsea, Barcelona enter the match having recently been declared champions of their domestic league for the second consecutive season. Though Barca still have matches remaining in the league campaign, they are uncatchable after winning all 26 of their league matches so far. Having not dropped a point all year, their title defense has been truly remarkable. Overseeing it all is manager Lluís Cortes, who took over first team management in May of 2019, after spending several years as an assistant. Cortes has brought FC Barcelona Femení to the peak of their game.

Their dominance has led to an eye-popping 128 goals scored, more than twice that of any other team in the league. Jennifer Hermoso leads the team with 16 goals in the league and another 6 in Europe. Asisat Oshoala is also a huge threat in front of goal, with 17 goals in all competitions. She came off the bench in both games against PSG, putting pressure on tired legs. Alexia Putellas has scored only once in Barcelona’s run to the final, but she has proven dangerous by scoring double digit goals in league play. Dutch international Lieke Mertens has been particularly impressive under the European lights, scoring five goals, including a brace in their second leg against PSG.

TOPSHOT-FBL-EUR-C1-WOMEN-BARCELONA-TRAINING Photo by JONATHAN NACKSTRAND/AFP via Getty Images

Nestled amongst all the goal scorers is of course a playmaker pulling the strings. Caroline Graham Hansen has been the creative spark at winger, recording 20 assists. Keeping Hansen contained would go a long way towards Chelsea winning, but that is easier said than done. Her quality may be unmatched in the world.

Barcelona’s midfield is as deep as it is talented. Captain Alexia Putellas will no doubt be on the team sheet and she is likely to be joined by Aitana Bonmatí. Another option is Patricia Guijarro, as are experienced midfielders Vicky Losada and Kheira Hamaroui.

Leila Ouhabi and Marta Torrejón will be expected to take up fullback duties against Chelsea; tasked with slowing down the Kerr-Kerby connection, as well as providing a threat going forward. Andrea Pereira and Mapi León will shield goalkeeper Sandra Paños against the Might Might Blues attack. If they can avoid getting knocked out early, Barcelona will like their chances to control the match as it wears on.

Previously: This will be the first ever competitive meeting between the two sides. So let’s take a look back at Chelsea’s impressive semifinal second leg victory against Bayern Munich.