Women's Champions League final: Barcelona and Lyon set for Bilbao battle

By Sports Desk May 24, 2024 180

The stage is set in Bilbao for a battle of two European Giants.

Barcelona are striving to make history and win the quadruple, a feat only achieved by Arsenal in 2007 when they won a domestic treble and the UEFA Women’s Cup; this would match Arsenal's achievements, and Barca would be the first team to win such a treble since the rebranding to the Women's Champions League.

Lyon, however, cannot be ruled out. They are 11-time finalists and eight-time champions, making them the most successful team of all time in the competition.

They are serial winners and seem to be able to find a way even when they are not deemed to be the favourites.

This will be the third time Barcelona and Lyon have faced each other in the final of the Champions League; the second-most meetings in the final of the competition, after Lyon v Wolfsburg (four).

The French side won the previous two by an aggregate score of 7-2 (4-1 in 2019 and 3-1 in 2022). Lyon boss Sonia Bompastor, who is seemingly set to join Chelsea, will be looking to replicate the 2022 final in Turin, a 3-1 victory which meant she became the first woman to win the competition as a player and head coach. 

Victory on Saturday would be the parting gift to her beloved Lyon as she aims to cement their European dynasty.  

Barcelona’s march to the top

Barca will play in a fourth consecutive final in the Champions League, and their fifth within the last six seasons.

The Azulgranas have appeared in five finals in the competition, with only Lyonnais (11), Eintracht Frankfurt (six) and Wolfsburg (six) featuring in more.

Only Lyon (five between 2016 and 2020) have had a longer run of appearing in consecutive Champions League finals than Barcelona’s current run (this year being their fourth).

Barcelona have shone once again in the tournament and Jonatan Giraldez is confident of his side's potential to make history. 

He told reporters: "We cannot wait for the final. We've had a fantastic season, playing great football, and the recent weeks have seen us on a great dynamic, with almost everyone available.

"We already have three trophies won, so to have the chance to add another Champions League in this fantastic stadium means we can try to show we are still the best team in Europe."

World Cup winner Salma Paralluelo is the second-highest scorer in the competition, with six goals. She has outperformed her xG of 4.6.

Paralluelo has had the most shots of any player in the competition (35), joint-top with team-mate Caroline Graham Hansen, who has netted five times in the competition.

The Norwegian has been in excellent form this year and really made her team tick. Hansen has the highest expected assists (xA) total in the competition, at 4.5. She has provided five assists, level with club-mate and Ballon d'Or winner Aitana Bonmati.  

Tussle of the titans

Lyon have been clinical in this year’s tournament, leading the scoring charts. They have netted 36 times in 10 games, an average of 3.6 goals per game, from an xG of 34.

They also lead the way in total attempts with 252, ahead of Barcelona, who recorded 226.  

Barca are the second-highest scorers, with their tally of 34 goals being 14 clear of next-best Chelsea (20). They have registered 27.6 xG.

The Catalan giants have also been more accurate this season and boast the better shot conversion rate – 15.25 to Lyon’s 14.06. 

This match-up will feature four of the five most creative players in the tournament. Lyon’s Selma Bacha leads the way with 32 chances created. Barca trio Graham Hansen, Bonmati and Mariona Caldentey have created 29, 24 and 20 opportunities respectively.

Favourably, the sides were on opposite sides of the draw in this year’s competition and seemed destined to meet in another battle of the titans.

Barca have conceded just eight goals, the joint-best figure in the competition along with Chelsea, but their expected goals against (xGA) of 5.4 suggests they have been unfortunate to concede so many.

Lyon have conceded 10 times, from 7.24 xGA. These numbers are that of champions and emphasise the quality that will be on display in Bilbao.  

The best there has ever been

Lyon have only failed to win two of their previous 10 Champions League finals – on penalties against Turbine Postdam in 2010 and 0-1 against Wolfsburg in 2013. Barcelona, meanwhile, have lost two of their previous four, with both defeats coming against OL in 2019 and 2022.

Lyon’s Kadidiatou Diani is the leading scorer in the Champions League this season, with eight goals in 10 appearances.  

Those strikes have come from 4.5 xG, displaying Diani’s clinical nature in front of goal – she has essentially netted double the amount of goals she would have been anticipated to based on the quality of chances to fall her way.  

Lyon star Ada Hegerberg has just returned from injury and will bolster the confidence of the French side. The former Ballon d'Or winner has scored five goals from 33 shots. 

Hegerberg could become the first player to score in five Champions League finals, having netted in four already for Lyon. She currently shares the record for most finals scored in along with Alexandra Popp.

One player that will be crucial for Lyon is captain Wendie Renard. She has been involved in 10 of Lyon’s previous final appearances in the competition, winning eight times. 

Three current Lyon players have previously found the net for the club against Barca in the Champions League. Hegerberg has done so five times, Marozsan twice, and Eugenie Le Sommer once. Patri Guijarro and Alexia Putellas have scored for Barca against Lyon.

Bompastor understands the history of this tie and told reporters: "This Barca is different from the one we faced in the final two years ago. They have made new signings and each final brings with it a different story. It will be a totally different game tomorrow.

"We are a team that has won a lot in the past. But we remain really ambitious. For me, we are the best team in the world and will continue to be no matter what happens tomorrow. I trust my players; I know there is all the individual and collective talent needed to achieve this goal."

The Opta supercomputer rates Barcelona as huge favourites going into the tie, giving them a 67.8 per cent chance of winning in the pre-match simulations.

However, it may be much closer than that in reality. Only time will tell which records will be set on Saturday under the lights in Bilbao. 

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Last modified on Friday, 24 May 2024 16:06
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