Chelsea are history makers as a football club with both their women’s and men’s teams set to compete in the respective Champions League finals, the former emerging from a chaotic week in the WSL landscape. The news of Casey Stoney’s resignation from Manchester United (which you can read about here) has sent shockwaves through the whole league, her links with a move to San Diego’s NWSL expansion side making matters even worse for football in this country. It was the USWNT that were victorious in both of the last two World Cups and with a manager of that ilk, as well as several players including Bristol City’s shining light Ebony Salmon going stateside, the status of the WSL on the whole is under threat. Back to the matter at hand though and having already lifted the WSL trophy and that of the Conti Cup too, Emma Hayes’ side have an even loftier title in their sights with Barcelona standing in their way!
Arsenal’s Champions League triumph of 2007 is the only success enjoyed by an English team in the competition to date, this trophy has often eluded even the best that the WSL has to offer. This Chelsea team aren’t just any team though, they have proven to be a true juggernaut of the sport and they are nothing short of a force to be reckoned with. Retaining the WSL title is a rare feat and they managed that, they’ve already eliminated last season’s Frauen-Bundesliga winners Wolfsburg who have two UWCL titles to their name and also the champions elect of the same league, Bayern Munich. In the opening leg against the latter in Germany, Sydney Lohmann and Hanna Glas scored either side of a fortunate Melanie Leupolz goal to give Bayern the advantage going into their trip to Kingsmeadow. Chelsea were up against it but given the quality of their attacking triumvirate, they were certainly still in the tie. Two thirds of this trio, Fran Kirby and Pernille Harder, were on target as was Ji So-yun in a 4-1 win in the English capital to book their place in the final in impressive style.
On the flipside, it could be argued that Barcelona faced a slightly tougher route on their way to Gothenberg, Sweden. PSG have twice made it to the final and both times have been defeated, once by Frankfurt and once by French rivals Lyon, this time though Les Parisians were unable to make it past the semis. Between the domestic foes, it was the turn of PSG to progress, a Wendie Renard own goal denying Lyon the chance to make it six consecutive Champions League titles in a row, eight in total. This led to PSG clashing with Barcelona at the final four stage as the Spaniards saw off Gareth Taylor’s Man City, the English side failing to be lethal whilst former Liverpool and Arsenal forward Asisat Oshoala scored both home and away. PSG and Barcelona have of course enjoyed a great amount of domestic success, losing not often featuring in their vocabulary and the form of the pair was clear for all to see. After a draw in the first leg, Dutch international Lieke Martens netted a brace in Barcelona to see her side advance.
As previously mentioned, the Londoners have wrapped up the WSL title since they were last in Champions League action, wins against Spurs and Reading seeing off the threat posed by Manchester City. Their success last season was far less traditional, when the season was concluded due to the pandemic, Chelsea found themselves behind the blue half of Manchester. It was the PPG (points per game) metric that saw the club win their third league title, a fourth now having been added to their cabinet of course. In regards to their Spanish counterparts and Barcelona made easy work of it, even with eight games left to play they have been crowned due to Levante trailing by sixteen points and having played three more games- meanwhile Real Madrid are third and Atletico wallow down in seventh.
Chelsea captain Magdalena Eriksson was absent in the first leg of the semi-finals having not recovered fully from her injury but her return in the second leg was a huge boost. Her centre-back partnership with Millie Bright has been imperious this season and when either has been missing, it is clear for all to see. Maren Mjelde is the only major player that Emma Hayes won’t be able to select but the slight silver lining is that they have adjusted to life without her recently, the likes of Niamh Charles and Jess Carter coming even further to the fore this season too. As previously mentioned, Chelsea’s attacking three-piece are all fit and firing, Sam Kerr is fresh off of winning the WSL Golden Boot and as well as Fran Kirby, the Matilda’s star is being heavily touted as a contender for the coveted Ballon d’Or award.
On to their opponents for this major clash in Gothenberg and Barcelona were without the injured Las Palmas native midfielder Andrea Falcon in both legs of the semi-final, her place in the upcoming final thus remains to be seen. Alongside her, Patri Guijarro missed the first leg due to suspension so she’ll be in the reckoning for what is a very hard XI to break into whilst defender Andrea Pereira will serve her time out (via yellow card accumulation) on the biggest stage of them all which is a loss for the Blaugrana. Lluis Cortes was in charge when Barcelona lost in their first ever Champions League final at the hands of Lyon in 2019 but the argument can be made his squad is even stronger this time around; the likes of Ouahabi and Hamraoui are a testament to the defensive grit the side possesses whilst Norwegian Caroline Graham-Hansen, Lieke Martens and top goalscorer Jenni Hermoso can give Chelsea’s frontline a run for the money when it comes to end product.
As soon as PSG eliminated the defending champions Lyon, that surely made them favourites with the same mantle then passing on to Barcelona as they then saw off the French giants. It is a final though meaning that anything can feasibly happen, the Spaniards are as defensively resolute as they come whilst Chelsea can put any team to the sword, scoring an obscene amount of goals. Can Chelsea write themselves in the history books by not only becoming just the second English side to get over the hump, but also the first club to win both the women’s and men’s Champions League trophies?