Chelsea face Barcelona in Gothenburg, Sweden, this evening as both teams bid for their first Women’s Champions League title.
The Spanish side reached the final back in 2019 but lost to Lyon. Chelsea, meanwhile, have reached this stage of the competition for the first time.
All the signs are there for a pulsating and memorable final. Two clubs looking to make history. Both with world-class attacks –– both with seemingly impenetrable defences. From analysing the two teams side by side, it’s almost impossible to call.
It may take just a single moment of individual brilliance from one of the many talented forwards that will grace the pitch, to decide the game. Equally, a defensive masterclass from a specific player could suppress any attacking threat and prove just as pivotal.
With this in mind, here are five players that could decide this year’s final.
Barcelona have an abundance of attacking options at their disposal, but Jenni Hermoso’s experience and clinical edge in front of goal could make the difference.
The Spanish forward has scored 27 league goals in 26 games this season, adding a further six in the Champions League. With 10 assists to match, the 31-year-old has an all-round game that can get the best out of her teammates as well.
As Spain’s all-time leading scorer and a four-time Primera División Golden Boot winner, Chelsea can ill afford to give Hermoso too many chances in front of goal.
Level with Hermoso on six Champions League goals this season, Fran Kirby has been Chelsea’s standout player across all competitions.
Recently named the Football Writers Association’s Women’s Footballer of the Year, the English star registered 16 goals and 11 assists in the Women’s Super League and has been a match-winner on multiple occasions.
Given her struggles with illness and return to form this year, it would be fitting for Kirby to round off her phenomenal campaign with another virtuoso performance.
Caroline Graham Hansen
While she may not be as prolific in front of goal as the rest of Barcelona’s forward line, Caroline Graham Hansen is arguably the most crucial.
The Norwegian winger joined from Wolfsburg in 2019 and is one of the most technically accomplished players in the women’s game.
With dazzling feet and an effortless ability to glide past defenders, the 26-year-old caused Manchester City countless problems in the round of 32 earlier this year.
Having scored 12 goals and registered 12 assists this season, Emma Hayes must surely have conjured up a plan on how Chelsea can stop the outstanding forward.
Hansen’s fellow Norwegian teammate Pernille Harder could prove to be just as decisive for the Blues.
The 28-year-old signed for Chelsea for a world record transfer fee at the beginning of the season and has more than justified her price tag.
Although both Kirby and Sam Kerr have notched more goals overall, Harder has the potential to make the difference in the key moments –– proven by her Didier Drogba-esque header against Bayern Munich in the semi-final second leg.
The Norwegian can also bring previous Champions League Final experience, having finished as a runner-up with Wolfsburg in 2018 and 2020. This time around, the talented forward will hope it’s third time lucky.
The impact of Magdalena Eriksson in the semi-final second leg can’t be understated. Having missed the first-leg through injury, Chelsea’s captain led from the front –– blocking, tackling and commanding her defence throughout.
Such has been the form of the Blues’ forward line and the impressive Ann-Katrin Berger, that Eriksson’s performances have often gone under the radar. Her absence through injury, however, emphasised just how important she is to the success of Hayes’ team.
Considering Barcelona possess so many attacking weapons, Chelsea’s defence will be the key to lifting the trophy. If they can successfully contain the Spanish side’s fearsome forward line then they’ll likely win. Whether they do so, though, depends on if Eriksson can successfully marshall her backline once more.