It's almost crunch time in the UEFA Women's Champions League. There's just two days before perhaps the most talked about final in history gets underway.
Chelsea and Barcelona will lock horns in Gothenburg on Sunday as a new European champion waits to be crowned. Both teams will be vying to make history for their respective clubs – with neither having won the Champions League before, it's a huge occasion for both.
Ahead of the title-deciding clash, football pundit and England centurion Eniola Aluko spoke to GiveMeSport Women about what this means for women's football, and highlighted Lyon's surprise early exit from the competition.
"I said it last year – we need to see more," she said. "We want Champions League finals that are a bit more competitive and exciting and I think maybe Lyon not being part of it had to happen for us to see that change.
"What’s going to be really exciting about Sunday is that you have one team who’s already been in the Champions League final – who will probably be gutted about their last performance and are going to want to win. And then you have another team who know it might not come around again for another 10 years."
Indeed, Barcelona faced the seven-time European champions back in 2019, in what ended in a 4-1 win for Lyon. Ada Hegerberg bagged herself a first half hat-trick, setting the tone early on for a heavy Barca defeat. This time round however, the Catalonians have been one of the strongest attacking teams in the tournament.
Lluis Cortes' side have scored 23 goals from the European Round of 32 onwards and dominated their 2020/21 Primera Iberdrola season. Barcelona netted an astonishing 128 goals in 26 games and didn't drop a single point the entire campaign.
"They’ve obviously had a great season," Aluko said of Barca. "They’ve won the league and their performance against Manchester City was a really big signal. I remember thinking ‘this is a different Barcelona team’. But there’s a predictability about Barcelona that Chelsea don’t have. I don’t think you can always read what Chelsea are going to do tactically."
Similarly, the Blues topped the Women's Super League table after winning 18 matches, drawing three and losing just the one. They also enjoyed success in the Continental Cup, thrashing Bristol City 6-0 in the final at Vicarage Road.
Asked whether she was confident in her old side's ability to win the Champions League for the first time, the former striker didn't hesitate – stating she believes Chelsea 'can absolutely win' the final on Sunday. She went on to wax lyrical about the deadly duo that is Sam Kerr and Fran Kirby, who between them were involved in 55 of the Blues' 69 WSL goals this season.
"They’re powerhouses in their own right and often when you get two players like that, sometimes there’s a risk that they play for themselves. But what you have [with Kerr and Kirby] is really good chemistry, an understanding and you have players who are as happy when they assist as when they score."
The final will take place on Sunday at 8pm BST, as fans eagerly await the result to find out which new winner will be crowned to end the Lyon reign. Aluko admitted she is "so proud" of her former club and lauded them for being "unapologetic about wanting to win".
"If Chelsea were to win the Champions League, I think it's going to be a big signal for women's football and for a lot of owners who are looking and thinking 'that's 10 years of investment and the men and women are both in the Champions League final – that's worth it'."
BT Sport has live coverage of the UEFA Women’s Champions League final between Chelsea Women and Barcelona Women live from 7.15pm on Sunday 16th May on BT Sport 2.News Now - Sport News