Barcelona will be aiming to clinch their second Women’s Champions League title in three years on Saturday, but will be up against a steely VfL Wolfsburg side desperate to get their hands on a trophy they last won in 2014.
There is no doubting the quality in the Spanish side who successfully defended their league title this season with 28 wins, one draw and one defeat which came in the final game.
They also will be boosted by the presence of two-times Ballon d’Or winner Alexia Putellas. The Spain midfielder made her long awaited return to action at the end of April after recovering from an ACL injury suffered last year.
“I’m lucky enough to live close to Alexia and be able to learn from her every day. Just watching her, seeing what she transmits to you in training makes you learn and become a better player,”Team mate Claudia Pina told Reuters in a Zoom interview.
“I’ve always noticed her because she scores a lot of goals. She’s a special and different kind of player,” Added the 21-year-old forward, who came on in the final last year which Barca lost 3-1 torecord eight-times champions Olympique Lyonnais.
But it’s Wolfsburg who boast the top scorer in the competition this season – Polish forward Ewa Pajor with eight.
The 26-year-old has reached the final with the German side on three occasions (2016, 2018, 2020) but only has three runners-up medals to show for it.
Those heartbreaking losses, all to Lyon, give her further motivation to fire her team to glory at Eindhoven’s PSV Stadion.
“It will definitely help me prepare – me and our team, because I will want to share this with the girls ahead of the final,”Pajor told Reuters.
Despite narrowly missing out on the Bundesliga this season to Bayern Munich, Wolfsburg have a never-say-die attitude that runs through the squad and was evident in their last-gasp 3-2 (5-4 on aggregate) semi-final win over Arsenal in London.
The match was heading to penalties with seconds on the clock before Pauline Bremer slid in at the back post to book their place in the final.
Pina, who was on loan at Sevilla when Barca won their first Champions League title in 2021, said her team were well aware of Wolfsburg’s ability to spring an upset.
“They are a very strong opponent who will certainly not make things easy for us. They can do a lot of damage on the counterattack, as they have very fast players, and I think they know how to manage these games well,”She said.
A win for Wolfsburg would come 10 years after their first Champions League triumph – a 1-0 victory over Lyon at Stamford Bridge.
There will be many more in attendance this weekend than in London back then, as UEFA has announced more than 34,100 tickets have been issued for the showpiece event.
For Pajor, a win would be a decade-long dream come true. In 2013, as a young player at Polish side Medyk Konin, she received a signed ball from the Champions League winners for being player of the match in the Polish Cup final.
“It’s at home, it’s on a shelf and every time I come home, I look at it and of course I dream of winning the Champions League together with Wolfsburg, too. Now, if we won, it would be something amazing because it’s exactly 10 years later,”She said.
One of those 2013 signatories, former Wolfsburg forward Conny Pohlers said Barca were favourites but having been the underdog once herself, added that belief would be key.
“I think Barcelona are small favourites, but it is only one game… We (Wolfsburg) have to be strong in the first 10-15 minutes and then not be afraid and go and try,”Pohlers told Reuters as part of UEFA’s Queens of Football campaign.