Champions League – OL in reconquest, FC Barcelona with long teeth: a final to mark its territory

Champions League – OL in reconquest, FC Barcelona with long teeth: a final to mark its territory

Saturday May 19, 2019. In Budapest, at the Ferencvaros stadium, Ada Hegerberg’s OL gives a lesson to FC Barcelona novices in the Champions League final. For their first C1 final, the players of the team then coached by Lluis Cortes are trailing 4-0 after 30 minutes, thanks in particular to a hat-trick from the Norwegian star, the first women’s Golden Ball in history. Finally, Lyon will win 4-1, after the reduction of the Barcelona score in the 89th minute, and will win the 4th of their 5 titles in a row which have consecrated them a little more as the best team of this beginning of the 21st century. .

This Saturday (7 p.m.), in Turin on the lawn of Juventus Stadium, Fenottes and Blaugrana will meet again in the final of the most prestigious of European competitions. Except that this time, the duel looks much tighter. This continental coronation that the two teams will dispute should also symbolize something that goes beyond a simple line of awards: that of hegemony over European football.

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After a decade of crushing everything in its path, Jean-Michel Aulas’ team, whose 10th C1 final will be theirs, not only face the defending champion (4-0 victory against Chelsea), but the team that seems ready to take power at the expense of the Rhodaniennes. “It’s the dream final”enthuses Romain Balland, journalist and women’s football expert whom he has been following for many years. “Barcelona are the defending champions, they could become one of the few clubs to retain their title, they are going to play their third final in the last four editions. They are a club which is trying to supplant anyone, and therefore the ‘OL, the biggest European club’exposes the one who followed the course of the two clubs in C1 for the DAZN platform, which broadcast, in France, the matches on Youtube. “Either Lyon manages to regain its crown, or Barcelona confirms that the new stronghold of women’s football is in Catalonia”.

FC Barcelona players celebrating

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The two formations, although equally ambitious, are on two different dynamics. While OL, which stalled last year, wants to revive, the former club of Kheira Hamraoui continues to grow on the Old Continent. Crowned Spanish champions for the third season in a row, the team of Irene Paredes, the Spanish defender who arrived last summer from PSG, won their 30 league matches, won the Spanish Super Cup hands down, and is still in the race to win a third consecutive Spanish Cup (semi-final against Real Madrid women scheduled for May 25). The domination of the Barcelona women, en route to a quadruple, recalls that exercised, for more than ten years, by the teammates of Wendie Renard, on French and European football. No doubt, the team now coached by Jonatan Giraldez seems well on its way to becoming the new OL.

We don’t want to compare ourselves to anyone and stay ourselves, with our football and our supporters

“We don’t want to be the new Lyonhowever swept away Paredes, in a press videoconference three days before the meeting of the year. We just want to be the new champions. It’s true that they have a great story behind them, they have won 7 times, it’s huge, it’s a lot of work. It’s not beating OL that counts. What matters is winning the Champions League for the second time in a row. We want to continue on this path but we don’t want to compare ourselves to anyone, we want to stay ourselves, with our style, our football, our supporters.”.

These fans who have allowed FC Barcelona to make history twice this season. While in France, the attendance record set this season by PSG saw 43,254 supporters go to the Parc des Princes for the Champions League semi-final between Paris and Lyon, at Camp Nou it is no less than 91,648 fans gathered in the stands to watch the semi-final second leg against Wolfsburg. Just after the 91,553 supporters gathered during the Clasico against Real Madrid women at the end of March.

A sacred wind of passion, which comes to consecrate the ultra-rapid rise of the women’s section of the former club of Lionel Messi, where professionalism became the norm in 2015, only. “In 7 years, we have changed everything”thus exposed Markel Zubizarreta, the sports director of the Barcelona women, to the Guardian. This success, for Irene Paredes, “It’s the result of the work of a lot of people who worked together with a lot of enthusiasm. They wanted a women’s team that worked well, they wanted to become a reference. There was a lot of work in a lot of different areas”. “Barcelona is a benchmark, all other clubs should be inspired by how it works”supports the Norwegian Ingrid Engen.

Golden Ball Alexia Putellas in a match against Real Madrid Women

Credit: Getty Images

“And then we also have this wonderful generation of very talented players that we are lucky to have”, underlines the former Parisian captain, in reference to her compatriots Mariona Caldentey and Mapi Leon on the one hand, but above all to Aitana Bonmati, Patri Guijarro (finalists of the U20 World Cup organized in France in 2018), symbols of this Catalan formation which also excels among girls. This core of players coming out of the Barcelona cocoon, Alexia Putellas, Women’s Golden Ball 2022 and one of the biggest threats for OL this Saturday, is the figurehead.

For OL, “the year of reconquest”

The Blaugrana leaders, whose estimated budget (4.5 million euros), is almost half that of Lyon (7.5 million euros), then added to this base an assembly of talented players and experience capable of blending into the Barcelona mold and its game of possession and positions. To Asisat Oshoala and Lieke Martens, were added Jennifer Hermoso, Caroline Graham Hansen, Fridolina Roflo or other Engen and Ana-Maria Crnogorcevic. These arrivals, far from upsetting the balance of the collective, made it possible to raise the mayonnaise.

From the Blaugrana starting lineup in the final in 2019, six players should still be lined up this Saturday. On the Lyon side, only 4 of the holders present in Hungary should start again in Turin (Renard, Mbock, Henry, Hegerberg). With, for these players so used to winning, a feeling of revenge. Because for Lyon, leader of D1 Arkema, “this is the year of reconquest”, as Selma Bacha, the left side / winger of Les Fenottes, said. The partners of Eugenie Le Sommer are indeed trying to recover from a past season where they found themselves, for the first time in ages, without the slightest title.

Sonia Bompastor motivated us to win everything. She has the winning DNA and she passes it on to us

The fault of PSG which, not content with having released OL in the quarter-finals of C1, also deprived it of the title of champion of France (the Coupe de France could not be played due to the epidemic of Covid-19). Faced with the collapse of the results, Jean-Michel Aulas and the management have chosen to appoint a woman on the bench for the first time: Sonia Bompastor, tricolor international with 156 selections, who could become the first to win the C1 as player then coach.

Appointed in April 2021, replacing Jean-Luc Vasseur, the one who, after six years spent in Lyon as a player (2006-2009 then 2010-2013), had occupied the position of assistant in the staff of Gérard Prêcheur, before run the Rhodaniennes training center, “brought a lot, especially his experience as a former captainas recognized by Delphine Cascarino at the site Olympique-et-Lyonnais.com. She motivated us to win everything. She has the DNA of winning, she passes it on to us”. “From the start of the season, we said to ourselves that we had to recover what belongs to us”confided Melvine Malard, another emblem of the Lyon training center which, too, is running at full speed.

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“Let’s not forget that women’s football also has its own nuances, its subtleties, its problems.recalls Romain Balland. She has the experience of a high-level woman, who has passed her diplomas, who has a look and a follow-up over several decades of women’s football, she has an ability to respond to certain problems that others did not have “in particular Vasseur or Reynald Pedros, his predecessors, who arrived from men’s football and therefore less able to be in symbiosis with their group.

OL coach Sonio Bompastor and his player Amandine Henry during Juventus Turin – Lyon

Credit: Getty Images

“She played with Renard, with Le Sommer, Henry, Bouhaddi, she saw Bacha, Cascarino and Malard pass through the training center. She spoke with coaches who knew Damaris Egurrola well, she knows people in the United States who spoke to him about Catarina Macario (two rookies from recent years at OL), she had a precise eye on the position of right and left back in relation to what OL’s playing habits represent”completes the one who also officiates for OL TV, about the former left-back or midfielder.

On the return, Wolfsburg physically jostled Barça who could not put their game in place. Obviously, it gave ideas to Lyon

If the Coupe de France escaped him (elimination in the round of 16 by PSG), Bompastor is not very far from winning his bet, at the end of a campaign where Lyon, both in the quarter against Juve (1- 2 then 3-1) only in half against PSG (3-2 and 2-1), had to whip, while showing a great capacity for resilience. “We are here to write our historysaid, determined, Wendie Renard on Friday. Collectively, we have suffered together since the start of the year, we have managed to reverse badly embarked situations, I am hungry and I will do everything to leave with the trophy”. To do this, it is the Barcelona suitor who must be rebuffed, in a meeting that promises to be tough. And where Olympique Lyonnais, who will not appear, as was so often the case, in the skin of the favorite, will surely have to adapt, facing a team used to monopolizing the ball (66% possession on average in his Champions League campaign, for 3.7 goals per game).

“I see OL making their experience and their physique speakpredicts Romain Balland, who will cover the final, also broadcast by TMC, for DAZN. We know that Barcelona have won everything this year, except for one official match, the semi-final second leg against Wolfsburg (2-0 defeat). There was perhaps a little bit of relaxation, unconsciously (after Barcelona’s 5-1 first leg victory), but Wolfsburg physically pushed Barça who could not put their possession game in place, and obviously, it gave ideas to Lyon”. What Bompastor confirmed in the pre-match press conference: “We know what the strengths and weaknesses of Barcelona are, our team has the talent and the collective qualities to put them in difficulty”. Always winner of the Blaugrana in three confrontations in C1 (2-1 then 1-0 in the quarter-finals in 2018), OL therefore know what to expect to extend their glorious history.

Wendie Renard and the Lyonnaises will play in the 10th Champions League semi-final in OL history

Credit: Getty Images

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