The UEFA Women’s Champion’s League (UWCL) Final is due to be contested between Chelsea Women & Barcelona Femeni on Sunday, 16 May at the Gamla Ullevi Stadium in Göteborg, Sweden. The highly anticipated match will be the first ever Champion’s League Final for Emma Hayes’ Blues. Both sides are looking to continue their highly successful seasons by being crowned European Champions. Chelsea & Barcelona are both in excellent form, with both sides wrapping up their respective Domestic Titles last weekend. It is the biggest game in European football. There are so many quality players on show. It’s Chelsea Women vs Barcelona Femeni for the UWCL!
Finishing Strong: Blues and Barca Are Already Champions
The Blues were under pressure to deliver on the final day of the campaign as Manchester City were within striking distance in the case of any slip ups. The 20/21 Women’s Super League Title was secured in emphatic fashion however, with a 5-0 win over Reading. Chelsea rode a wave of momentum throughout the match following a second minute opening goal courtesy of Melanie Leupolz.
Barcelona, on the other hand, wrapped up their title with a whopping eight games in hand. You could be forgiven if you rubbed your eyes after looking at the Primera Divison Femenina table or if you’d assumed you were being shown a table for FIFA 21 Career Mode. The Blaugrana boast an impressive goal differential of +123 and are 26/26 in their domestic league for the 20/21 season collecting an unprecedented 78 points out of 78 and conceding just five goals.
Chelsea Women vs Barcelona Femeni: The Key Matchups
With Chelsea and Barcelona coming into the Final full of confidence, where will the match be won and lost? Let’s dive in to three key positional match ups that may decide their team’s fate.
Emma Hayes often shows flexibility by switching Chelsea’s formation between a 4-2-3-1 and a 4-3-3 both in game and from game to game. On the other hand, Barcelona Manager Lluis Costes’ consistently uses a 4-3-3 formation.
Sam Kerr & Fran Kirby vs Jennifer Hermoso & Lieke Martens
I’m going to cheat on this preview right off the bat and group two players against two players in the same match up. Simply because both duos are so key to their teams success and prolific nature going forward. Just for context of how impressive each player’s campaign has been in terms of goals and assists:
Kerr 21/7 G/A in 22 ESL matches
Kirby 16/11 G/A in 17 ESL matches
Hermoso 9/5 G/A in 9 Primera Division matches
Martens 7/3 G/A in 10 Primera Division matches
Wow! There has also been no slowing down in the Champions League campaign for either duo. Kerr & Kirby have 13 G/A between them, while Hermoso & Martens boast 11 goals straight combined.
Sam Kerr & Fran Kirby or ‘Kerrby’ as their nickname goes by Blues fans have had outstanding bounce back seasons and formed one of world football’s most formidable partnerships. I use ‘bounce back’ and not ‘breakout’ as both players have been excellent for a sustained period of years. However, both experienced unlucky 2019/20 campaigns for different reasons.
Sam Kerr arrived to Chelsea in November 2019 following weeks of speculation a move to Europe was on the cards, with almost every club in for her prized signature. As a fellow ‘Aussie’ it was amazing news our National Team Captain was joining the Blues. However, Kerr endured a tough first campaign in London with a leg injury limiting her to only seven ESL appearances and one goal.
Kirby only managed four domestic appearances last season due to an ongoing battle with Pericarditis. There was a brief time it had been suggested Kirby would not be able to play football again due to the condition. What a difference a year can make with Kerr collecting the ESL Golden Boot and Kirby winning the prestigious FWA (Football Writers Association) Player of the Year Award by a unanimous vote within the last week.
Hermoso & Martens are a brilliant duo in their own right. Hermoso’s club career strike rate is an impressive 200 goals from 280 senior career appearances. ‘Jenni’ as she is referred to in football circles has been at the top of the women’s game for a decade and has four domestic Golden Boot awards in Spain.
Martens star has continued to rise throughout her storied career, signing for Barcelona in 2017 after successful stints in Holland, Belgium, Germany & Sweden. Her most impressive individual achievements coming in the form of being named the UEFA Women’s Player of the Year in 2017 and FIFA Women’s Player of the Year in 2018. The Dutch player also assisted Barcelona’s sole goal in their 4-1 defeat to Lyon in the 2019 Champions League Final. If there are to be goals on Sunday, you can almost ensure one of the above players names will be mentioned in the build-up or at the finish.
Magdalena Eriksson vs Maria Pilar Leon
Chelsea Women’s Captain Eriksson has been an absolute rock at the heart of defence for the Blues this campaign. Eriksson has become one of Europe’s premier defenders and leaders in her almost four year Chelsea career, being handed the Blues Captaincy in September 2019.
Maria Pilar Leon or ‘Mapi’ as she is better known has been a rising star of the European circuit throughout her career to date. After flourishing for Espanyol & Atletico Madrid as a teenager and into her only 20’s, Mapi became the first Women’s player to command a transfer fee in the Primera Division Femeni upon her move from Atleti to Barcelona in 2017.
Both Eriksson and Mapi are premier defenders for both their clubs and countries with countless impressive displays. Their stars are only continuing to rise being only 27 and 25 years of age respectively and coming into their playing peak. They are both capable of playing as a left back or in central defence and neither player would look out of place in midfield due to their skill on the ball, composure and passing versatility. Both operate in the heart of defence for club and country, but their added versatility is a huge bonus for both managers. Eriksson is so key to the Blues that their performances have not packed the same punch without their Captain in defence. This showed itself most recently evidenced in the 2-1 defeat to Bayern Munich in the UWCL Semi Final first leg. Emma Hayes’ has previously said Eriksson would make a terrific manager after football, which should be enough to tell you the presence and confidence she gives this dressing room.
Mapi’s job for the Final, will be made all the more difficult by the suspension of regular centre half partner Andrea Pereira, after Periera accumulated yellow cards in each Semi Final leg. Pereira’s absence leaves Mapi to be the leader of the defence, a role of which she is more than capable. Both player’s hands (or feet) will be full on Sunday evening marshalling their respective defences, whilst trying to quash the advances of two of Europe’s most formidable attacks. If there was a shortlist for who you would want in the heart of your defence for one game, though, Eriksson and Mapi make it easily, adding more intrigue to this already star studded tie.
Ann-Katrin Berger vs Sandra Panos
Call me a purist, but I absolutely can’t go past this goalkeeper matchup. Two of women’s football’s best current keeper’s who have been absolutely critical to their teams UWCL success this season. Berger has been immense for the Blues this campaign, most minds would instantly flash to the two, yes two crucial penalty saves against Atletico Madrid in the round of 16 of the UWCL. A tie which Chelsea would go on to win by a two goal margin. More recently a stunning, title saving-fingertip save against Manchester City in the ESL. A save which provoked Hayes to suggest in the post-match interview, “She’s the best, her and [Christiane] Tiane Endler are probably the best in the world.” Further praise came from England Women’s most capped player Fara Williams, stating: “It’s the best save I’ve ever seen,” courtesy of The Offside Rule podcast.
Not just making herself known in big moments, however, Berger has an impressive 79.3% save percentage throughout the ESL campaign, which is the highest of any Goalkeeper with three or more starts. Berger was fittingly rewarded with the Golden Glove after keeping 12 clean sheets throughout the ESL.
Sandra Panos is in the same conversation for the game’s best goalkeepers. Panos’ recent accomplishments include the Zamora Trophy for four of her five campaigns at Barcelona, an award given to the goalkeeper with the lowest goals to games ratio in the Primera Division Femeni & La Liga Santander. She has also been included in the UWCL Squad of the Season in the same campaigns, most recently featuring in the 2019/20 season. The Barca goalkeeper has also had key involvements to ensure Barcelona’s path to the Final, including an outstanding 1-on-1 save against PSG midfielder Grace Geyoro in the UWCL Semi Final first leg whilst the tie was finely balanced at 1-1. Barcelona would progress to the Final 3-2 on aggregate. Panos also saved a key penalty in the UWCL Quarter Final first leg from Chloe Kelly of Manchester City, denying the citizens an away goal. If this match is tight and finely balanced as many predict, or dare I suggest heads to a penalty shoot-out, Berger and Panos could decide the silverware in Chelsea Women vs Barcelona Femeni.
Chelsea Women vs Barcelona Femeni: Final Thoughts
Despite assessing the three key match ups, I haven’t even scratched the surface of the quality and world class talent on display in this match. It would be remiss not to mention either midfield, with the battle of the engine rooms crucial in dictating pace and tempo for these outstanding attacks to flourish. If substitutions become a factor, look for Guro Reiten & Erin Cuthbert to stamp their authority for Chelsea. Asisat Oshoala and Mariona Caldentey will provide quality impact for Barcelona if called upon. The most exciting part of this match is that any player in either squad could have been involved in the key match ups. These two teams have been the best in Europe this season for a reason. Chelsea Women vs Barcelona Femeni is a true match worthy of the final.
Furthermore, there will be a new team crowned UWCL Champions this season, with both clubs chasing their first UWCL title. Barcelona Femeni were runners up in 2019 to Lyon, who have been the standout in women’s football over the last decade. Chelsea women are in their first UWCL Final and are looking to be only the second English team to win the competition after Arsenal Ladies who won the trophy in 2007 with a certain Emma Hayes on the coaching staff.
Both Chelsea Women and Barcelona Femeni are being touted as the next teams to take over the women’s European circuit for the coming years. Sunday evening could be the first step in establishing that intent. Adding extra interest is that the Blues are looking to notch up their third trophy this season with a first Quadruple well and truly in sight for the club.
The match is slated for kickoff at 8pm UK time Sunday 16/05 with teams to be released at 7pm. Make sure you don’t miss this match in what could be a massive weekend for Chelsea Women Football Club!
COME ON YOU BLUES!
Written by Lewis Richardson (@lewisricho11)
Edited by Dan Hill