Sports 16/05/2021

Making history has never been so close

Barça face Chelsea in their second Champions League final in three years

4 min
The feminine Barça already is to the semis of Cup

GöteborgThe road has been long and arduous. Lluís Cortés' players and the entire Barça staff have made many sacrifices and efforts to be in Göteborg (Sweden). This Sunday's Champions League final (21:00, Barça TV, Tv3 and Gol), in which the blaugranas will face Chelsea at the Gamla Ullevi stadium, is the perfect scenario to redeem themselves for the painful defeat two years ago in the final in Budapest. That day was a turning point for the blaugranas and, thanks to a change of heart, tomorrow they can become European champions for the first time in their history.

On the plane back from Budapest, players and staff came together to start a radical change in the team. The firm commitment to professionalise the team started much earlier. "Since we started in 2006, it took us 4-5 years to win the first league", says Xavi Llorens, coach of the azulgrana team between 2006 and 2017. "We've been working at a medium-high level since 2010. Ten seasons have gone by in which the team has grown and the players have gained a lot of experience. They have matured and have more experience when it comes to competing. There are players like Patri and Alexia who were already playing at the highest level when they were seventeen", says the scout for the Catalan club.

From the outset, the team's progression was marked by a forward-looking approach. "We knew that everything we were doing was not just for the present, but that we were working for the future", reflects Natalia Astrain, former coach of the Barça team. "The players who have been part of Barça's history know that defending this shirt is a source of pride and responsibility. We had the hope that the club would make a total commitment - as it is now - and we always fought for that every day". For this reason, the victories on the pitch were also a triumph in the professionalisation of the team. "We thought: "Let's see if with this victory we can go and play at the Mini Estadi". Every victory was a great achievement because we got a little more support from the club and visibility", says Astrain.

The whole team in training before the Champions League final.

The clear commitment, however, came in 2015. With Maria Teixidor at the helm, the women's team took a giant step forward. "The final is a brutal return for all the people who, each in their own way, have contributed to making it grow from the beginning. All the efforts and hours dedicated have been worth it. This final makes me personally very happy, regardless of the result. I see the fruit of the joint effort, the strength of the commitment and the power of a magnificently executed work", confesses the former manager, who is convinced of the team's chances of reaching the final.

The main objective of the group was to get back to the decisive match for the Champions League final. To prove that they are one of the great European teams was what every member of the squad had in their sights. Now, with this goal consolidated, they want to make history. "They are ready to win. It's no longer enough just to reach the final. This doesn't mean that if you don't win it's a failure. Getting here is an achievement and a prize, but I think they are more than ready to win the Champions League. I'm convinced that they will", says Astrain, who considers the Barça DNA to be a sure thing for Sunday's game. "The players have integrated a methodology that makes us recognisable as a club and they display it masterfully on the pitch. I see them in top form, with extraordinary strength and determination and with a very strong collective mentality", added Teixidor.

Historic moment and key to the future

Chelsea, the new champions of the English league, will not make things easy for Lluís Cortés' team. The duel of styles will be total on the pitch. The Blue and Whites, who prefer possession and control of the ball, will face a team coached by Emma Hayes, who feel particularly comfortable defending close to their goal. "They are a very tough team physically, but I think they have some deficits defensively. Their strengths are in the strength of the players up front and the way they finish plays. They don't play like us, but much tighter at the back, very strong in defence and coming out on the counter taking advantage of the speed of the players up front. It's a totally different way of understanding football", said Llorens, who travelled with the team to Göteborg.

The blaugranas' ambition knows no bounds. The vision of the future with which it all began is more alive than ever. "Women's football has to continue to grow. The little girls who are starting to play now will be able to enjoy better conditions and, if we win this final, it will help the future of these girls", said Vicky Losada at the pre-match press conference.

Once again, the Azulgranas have broken the glass ceiling and want to continue demonstrating that their ambition and hard work knows no limits. Against Chelsea, they will be looking to become European champions, a trophy that would mean so much more.