With major final experience, astonishing league form, and goal scorers galore in their squad, Barcelona will be tough for Chelsea to break down in the climax of this season’s glittering European showpiece, writes Martin Whiteley.
Barcelona will be hoping to make it second time lucky in their search to get their hands on the Champions League trophy in Gothenburg on Sunday.
Back in 2019, Barcelona became the first team from Spain to make it through to a European final. The day ultimately ended in disappointment after a 4-1 loss in Budapest to Lyon — Asisat Oshoala with the solitary strike for Barca — but the wheels had been set in motion that made sure this would not be a one-off occasion for the Catalan club.
Chelsea have made it through to the semi-final stage of the Champions League twice before, losing to Wolfsburg in the 2017-18 campaign and Lyon were just a little too good for the English side the next season.
After overturning a 2-1 loss away to Bayern Munich in the first leg this season, the Blues showed their class with a 4-1 victory on home soil to clinch a spot in their first European showpiece.
But they’ll need to contend with the attacking prowess that Barca possesses, which was ruthlessly demonstrated in their opening ties this time around. They battered Dutch side PSV 8-2 on aggregate before thrashing Fortuna Hjorring of Denmark 9-0 over two legs.
The club’s leading scorer in European competitions Jenni Hermoso may have led the way with four of those tallies, but seven other players got their name on the scoresheets too.
Just like Chelsea, Barcelona were also celebrating at the weekend having claimed back-to-back league titles. The only difference is the Spanish outfit still has eight Primera Division Femenina games left to play. The side from Catalonia having amassed 128 goals from their 26 straight victories.
As well as Hermoso, who leads the way with 21, Alexia Putellas, Oshoala, and Lieke Martens have all reached double figures for league goals this season.
Chelsea will need to be extremely wary of any runs made regardless of which side of the field they come from. The midfielders may have to drop a little deeper to make sure the defence is not over-run as Manchester City were in the opening stages of the first game in their last-eight tie with the Spanish outfit.
Although less talked about than the offensive players, the Barca defence, which features Marta Torrejon who recently passed the milestone of 300 games for the Spanish champions, plays its part when needed to.
Having held off a City fightback to emerge 4-2 winners on aggregate, the Barca backline was under even more pressure to perform in the latter stages of their tie with PSG. The ability not to concede a second goal in their second-leg encounter at home was the difference between Barca reaching the final after a 3-2 success or planning for next season’s tournament.
It is very rare to have two top teams that have never faced each other before in a final. Barca will want to start fast and impose their style on the game.
In the Spanish league this term, they have only had their defences breached five times — and never more than once in any game. The Catalan side typically plays a very high line defensive line and against most sides they face, it never gets them in any real trouble.
The space left in behind them can be exploited by pace, and in Sam Kerr and Fran Kirby Chelsea have that in abundance. The key for the English title winners will be can they get South Korean midfielder Ji So-yun enough of the ball? Her ability to find the strikers with pinpoint passes could be an outlet for them to try and exploit if they want to get into a position where they can see the whites of the goalkeeper’s eyes.
A strong possession-based game also restricts the pressure that is able to be applied on their rearguard. If Chelsea can find a way to disturb the time Barca has to play the ball around then they should be able to restrict the number of scoring opportunities that they can create.
These chances are often created quickly with very few passes and when there seems to be very little danger being posed to your goal.
It is fair to say that both the Spanish and English giants have the infrastructure in place to regularly challenge for the Champions League trophy. Winning that first one, though, is going to be the toughest to achieve.
Follow Martin on Twitter at @673martin