Favourites Barcelona should not underestimate hungry Wolfsburg
BARCELONA, June 2, 2023 (BSS/AFP) - Barcelona are firm favourites to lift
their second women's Champions League trophy against Wolfsburg on Saturday in
Eindhoven but cannot afford to underestimate the dangerous German side.
Wolfsburg have won the competition twice, in 2013 and 2014, and have also
finished as runners up in 2016, 2018 and 2020 -- making their sixth final in
little over a decade.
With record eight-time winners Lyon dumped out by Chelsea on penalties in the
quarter-finals, both clubs view this as a prime opportunity to capitalise.
It is the first final to sell out since 2010, with more than 34,000 tickets
sold at the PSV Stadium, guaranteeing a new national record crowd for a
women's football match in the Netherlands.
Wolfsburg were the only side to beat Barcelona last season in the competition
before Lyon in the final, although the Catalans progressed on aggregate.
Tommy Stroot's team, pipped by Bayern Munich to the title in the German
league, saw off Arsenal in a semi-final thriller at the Emirates to book
their ticket to the Netherlands.
The 2021 champions are confident of victory, but Wolfsburg possess dangerous
forwards in Sveindis Jonsdottir and Ewa Pajor, as well as key player
Barcelona's own brightest star, Alexia Putellas, is unlikely to start the
game after missing virtually the whole season because of a knee injury.
The two-time Ballon d'Or winner netted her first goal this season as a
substitute in the Spanish champions' final league match and could make an
impact from the bench.
Winger Caroline Graham Hansen and midfielder Aitana Bonmati are Barcelona's
most dangerous creators, with Wolfsburg likely to soak up pressure and try to
sting Jonatan Giraldez's team on the counter-attack.
Barcelona beat Chelsea in the final two seasons ago with an early blitz, all
four goals in the 4-0 win coming inside 36 minutes.
However last season they were stunned by Lyon in similar fashion, falling to
a 3-1 defeat after the French side took a three-goal lead within 33 minutes.
"(Lyon's opener) was a great strike, you have to admit it, but if you start
like that... the first half was really hard for us -- they came out pumped
up," Barcelona winger Ana-Maria Crnogorcevic warned this week.
"German teams believe until the last minute, quite often they score a last-
gasp goal and many times that's how they win -- they are very difficult teams
to play against."
- Reasons to believe -
Barcelona fans, who set two world records for attendance last season at Camp
Nou, including against Wolfsburg, travelled in droves to last year's final
and a vibrant atmosphere is expected for the sell-out clash.
However with the Netherlands bordering Germany, Popp is hopeful more even
levels of support could help her team.
"I think you can control Barcelona in one game better than knowing you have
two games," said Popp.
"You can play Barcelona on neutral turf, with perhaps more neutral
spectators, (which is) better than at Camp Nou, where so many people can
squeeze in. That will have an influence on us."
Barcelona thrashed Wolfsburg 5-1 at Camp Nou last season in the semi-final
first leg, but the Germans earned a 2-0 home win in the second.
"You also see that in most of the return legs, it isn't quite the same and
they're not so extremely superior and because of that, I see our chance,"
Barcelona players know their opponents well, with Graham Hansen, who netted
in both semi-finals games against Chelsea, Fridolina Rolfo and Ingrid Engen
playing for Wolfsburg before moving to Spain.
Engen, who started Wolfsburg's 2020 final defeat by Lyon as well as the
Catalans' own loss last year, hopes it's third time lucky for her.
"I remember thinking after both finals I am sure I will lift this trophy, it
has made the dream even bigger," Engen told international media in an
"I haven't been talking to (my former team-mates) before this game, you don't
want to do that when it's getting closer... but it's going to be special to