Paris (AFP) – Holders Barcelona must see off seasoned campaigners Wolfsburg if they are to reach a second consecutive Women’s Champions League final, where French giants Lyon or Paris Saint-Germain will lie in wait.
Barcelona have replaced Lyon as the leading force in the European women’s game with a squad led by Ballon d’Or winner Alexia Putellas crushing Chelsea 4-0 in last season’s Champions League final.
This season they have won all 27 domestic league matches to retain their title, scoring 146 goals along the way.
It has been a similar story in Europe where they cruised through their group before brushing aside Spanish rivals Real Madrid in the quarter-finals, winning 8-3 on aggregate to set up the last-four tie against Wolfsburg, with the first leg at the Camp Nou on Friday.
While the Barcelona men’s team goes through its toughest spell in two decades, Catalans have got right behind Putellas and her teammates to the extent that 91,553 attended the second leg of the Madrid tie at the Camp Nou.
That set a new record attendance for a women’s match that could be broken once more against Wolfsburg on Friday.
“Filling the Camp Nou was really special and I hope we can fill it again,” said Barcelona’s Norwegian midfielder Caroline Graham Hansen, who used to play for Wolfsburg.
The German side won back-to-back Champions League titles in 2013 and 2014 and then lost three finals in five years to the all-conquering Lyon side.
This season they topped a difficult group containing both Juventus and Chelsea before ousting Arsenal in the quarter-finals to set up this tie with the holders in a packed stadium.
“It’s going to be crazy,” Wolfsburg’s Alexandra Popp told German media. “We could be there when history is made.”
Wolfsburg are hoping to leave Catalonia with a favourable result to take into the second leg at home on April 30 as they target a return to the final in Turin, Italy, next month.
– Hegerberg back firing –
Barcelona lost 4-0 to Lyon in their first Champions League final appearance in 2019 and there is a chance the clubs could clash again in this season’s showpiece.
Lyon’s run of five straight continental titles ended last season when their hegemony in the domestic league — 14 consecutive French titles — was also broken by PSG.
They are on course to reclaim the French crown this year, though, and they play host to PSG in the first leg of their semi-final on Sunday.
Lyon crushed PSG 6-1 at home in the league earlier this season and they have Norwegian former Ballon d’Or winner Ada Hegerberg back fit again and scoring goals after a long spell on the sidelines.
Hegerberg scored in the last round as Lyon ousted Juventus while PSG edged Bayern Munich.
Lyon need not only look to Hegerberg for inspiration in front of goal for PSG must also watch out for the in-form United States star, Catarina Macario.
Meanwhile, PSG have their own attacking weapon in Marie-Antoinette Katoto, the France striker who is the club’s all-time leading scorer.
Sunday’s first leg will be played at the Groupama Stadium, the 2019 Women’s World Cup final venue which has a capacity of more than 59,000.
Lyon beat PSG 8-0 on aggregate in the Champions League semi-finals in 2016 but edged a one-off semi-final 1-0 in 2020.
Women’s Champions League Fixtures
Semi-finals, first legs
Friday (1645 GMT)
Barcelona (ESP) v Wolfsburg (GER)
Sunday (1500 GMT)
Lyon (FRA) v Paris Saint-Germain (FRA)
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