The disappointment of previous results – usually at the hands of the German and French sides – is now helping to fuel the ambitious Champions League runs of Chelsea and Barcelona, says Martin Whiteley
Look at the performance chart for the Women’s Champions League – and its predecessor the UEFA Women’s Cup – and two countries jump out as perennial winners.
France has seven successes to their name thanks to the recent dominance of Lyon, whereas Germany, through four teams, sees their tally currently stand at nine.
Only Umeå and English side Arsenal have previously been able to break the stranglehold of the two dominant nations in European women’s football. The Swedish side secured back-to-back wins beginning in 2003 and Arsenal were victorious back in 2007 when they got the better of Umeå.
Although they have never been able to add their name to the Champions League trophy, past work has certainly laid the foundations for the teams that have made it through to this season’s Champions League final.
Trailing 2-1 against Bayern Munich after the away leg, Chelsea were able to turn things around courtesy of a 4-1 victory. Goals came from Pernille Harder and Fran Kirby, with her second securing progression for the English side to the final in Gothenburg on 16 May.
Past disappointments have not only helped to drive this Chelsea side, but have allowed them to realise the importance of constantly building their squad – as a result, when the opportunity arose this year, they were in a perfect position to take full advantage.
The Spanish League is also seeing an upturn in fortunes recently. Past disputes over working conditions have seen strike action take place, but next season it is set to go professional and be rebranded as Liga Ellas.
After drawing 1-1 against PSG in the first leg last weekend, Barcelona booked a return to the Champions League final when they won 2-1 on home soil.
Having never previously had a Spanish team make the final of the leading women’s European competition, Barca have managed to achieve that two of the last three years.
Sandwiched in between their European commitments, Barca also managed to gain their 25th straight league win of the season with a 2-0 success away to Madrid CFF.
Already leading the league by 14 points, and still with three games in hand on their closest rivals, Barca are assured of their spot in Europe for next season. The usual support act for Barca in Europe has been Atlético Madrid, but they are down in seventh place this campaign and look unlikely to gain a top-three finish this time around.
That sets up the opportunity for Levante and Real Madrid to sample life at the top table of European Football. A 2-1 win at home against Sevilla moved second-placed Levante onto 61 points, whilst Real dropped to three points behind Levante after they were held 1-1 on home soil versus Sporting Huelva.
It is very difficult to be able to transition successfully from domestic play to European competition and gain immediate success. With preparation and investment though more new sides in the coming years could get themselves into a position where they can add their names to the European honours board.
Follow Martin on Twitter at @673martin