The current season of the Women’s Champions League has already seen many highlights and new records, and at least one more will follow when Barcelona and Wolfsburg face off in the final. What aspects are important to know going into the match?
With the regular season coming to an end and the Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand approaching on the horizon, one more major competition awaits us next week: the Women’s Champions League final between Barcelona and Wolfsburg. Before the game, it is already safe to say that at least one new record will be broken at this year’s final in Eindhoven. Additionally, the queen could make her first appearance of the season in this competition. We take a look at the five most important storylines around the clash of Europe’s top teams.
Another Attendance Record
On June 3, the Champions League final will take place at the Philips Stadion – normally used by PSV Eindhoven – and will mark the very first time that a final in the European competition is sold out since the rebrand in 2009-10. Already two weeks before the match, UEFA announced that there are no tickets available anymore. The final, which for the first time is coming to the Netherlands, will be played in front of 35,000 spectators.
The whole of the 2022-23 Champions League season has been a great success with the biggest attendances ever reported in the competition. Compared to last year’s 9,043 spectators per game, the numbers this time add up to 10,800, not counting the final.
For the first time, all four quarterfinal pairings were held in big stadiums with a new record in Italy when AS Roma welcomed Barcelona with an attendance of 39,454 at the Stadio Olimpico. One round later in the semifinals, it was the first occasion in the history of the Arsenal women’s team that they sold out the Emirates Stadium in their clash with Wolfsburg.
The biggest crowd of the current season came together for the meet-up between Barcelona and Chelsea when the Blaugrana fought their way into the final in front of 72,262 people.
These numbers show that the 2022 EUROs have had a massive impact not only on England but also other European countries drawing greater audiences to women’s soccer in what looks to be a significant upwards trend.
“La Reina” Returns to the World Stage
The current best women’s soccer player almost missed the entire season due to an ACL injury, but Alexia Putellas could not have chosen a better game to make her comeback in the European competition than the final against Wolfsburg. The Barcelona midfielder — also known as “La Reina” by Barcelona fans — will encounter an atmosphere worthy of royal attendance.
Of the countless women’s soccer stars to sustain ACL injuries over the past year, Putellas was perhaps the biggest. When she went down in the final Spain training session before the start of the EUROs last July, it was a major blow not only to the Spanish national team, but to the entire sport itself.
And again, Putellas chose the perfect game to make her return. Her first appearance back was as a substitute on April 30 against Sporting Huelva, where Barcelona claimed their fourth successive league title. Since then, the Ballon d’Or winner has scored her first goal after coming back from injury in the Blaugrana’s last league game against Madrid CFF, but she still has not started a single match this season. It is not clear yet if she will be part of Barça’s starting XI for the final.
An Intriguing Rematch
Both teams are no strangers to each other, as they have faced off in two semifinals over the course of three years. The last time around, it was Barcelona who came out on top. Even though the She-Wolves won their home game through goals by Tabea Waßmuth and Jill Roord, the Blaugrana proceeded to the final due to a clear 5-1 win at home. They had already been four goals up at the break leaving no chance for Wolfsburg in front of 91,648 — which still holds the title for the most attended women’s soccer match in history.
In the 2019-20 semifinal, it was the German team that advanced after defeating Barça 1-0. In this year, there is no clear favorite for the title, but Barcelona might have the slight advantage of missing no key player in their squad. In contrary, Wolfsburg will have to do without their central midfielder Lena Lattwein.
Battle of the Midfielders
Both teams have made their places known as powerhouses, and have made regular deep Champions League runs thanks to their squad depth, specifically in the midfield.
For Barcelona, the game directors are Putellas and Aitana Bonmatí, while on the other side for Wolfsburg, Lena Oberdorf and Alexandra Popp take on the important task to control the flow of the match. While both Barcelona players were involved in the last meet-up, the She-Wolves were missing Oberdorf last year.
There is a striking difference between the midfielders of the teams. Putellas and Bonmatí possess the highest technical skills and passing safety, the trademark of Barcelona. In contrary, Wolfsburg are known for their physicality going into challenges. Oberdorf mostly focuses on the defense while Popp is serious danger in front of goal, especially in header duels.
A Change of the Guard?
This year marks only the second time since the 2014-15 season that Olympique Lyonnais did not make the final. The French side is the most successful club in the competition’s history with eight titles to its name. This season, the team coached by Sonia Bompastor has not looked close to its normal form from the previous years. A downward trend is clearly visible meaning the crown for the best team of Europe is ready to be snatched by a challenger.
Winning five back-to-back titles from 2015 to 2020, it was quite looking like no team could oust OL from Europe’s throne. Fittingly, it was Barcelona that stopped their run two years ago, only for Lyon to emerge victorious over Barcelona in last year’s final. Now, the Blaugrana could pick up momentum again as the new force to be reckoned with in the Champions League.
With Wolfsburg, a totally different opponent is awaiting Barça in Eindhoven. The winner of the final could be on the verge of overtaking the top spot as the best team in Europe with the potential to become the “new Lyon” to dominate the continent. At least the queen has already been chosen for the Spanish club.