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Women's Champions League final: Match preview & how to watch Chelsea v Barcelona for free on BT Sport
Chelsea are closing in on an historic quadruple but must beat Barcelona in the biggest game in their history and claim a maiden Champions League crown to keep the dream alive.
“Oh my God, my dreams came true today,” she exclaimed after guiding her side to a maiden European final and realising a lifelong aspiration.
“I’ve played this out in the Curnock Street estate. I’ve entered that pitch every day as a nine-year-old about to play in the Champions League final.”
It wasn’t just a dream, it was a promise.
“It’ll be us one day, Bruce, it will be us, so give me time,” she told chairman Bruce Buck while watching Wolfsburg and Lyon lock horns in the 2013 showpiece at Stamford Bridge.
The enigmatic trailblazer has guided her cosmopolitan squad not only to the brink of European glory, but to the cusp of an unprecedented quadruple - a feat only achieved once before by Arsenal in 2006/07.
They have already secured the League Cup and Women’s Super League and victory in Sunday’s Champions League final would move them one step closer to the stunning undertaking.
How to watch Chelsea v Barcelona for free
After three successive years of European heartache at the hands of Wolfsburg, Hayes and Chelsea finally came of age on the biggest stage to exorcise their demons against the Germans in the quarter-finals, winning 5-1 on aggregate.
In the next round, trailing 2-1 from the first leg in Bavaria, late goals by Pernille Harder and Fran Kirby sent Chelsea through at the expense of Bayern Munich in an exhilarating encounter at Kingsmeadow.
England striker Kirby raced half the length of the pitch before scoring into an empty net to secure the monumental win with minutes to spare, sparking wild celebrations on the Chelsea bench.
Attention swiftly turned to Gothenburg and Barcelona, who beat Paris Saint-Germain to reach the final, when contemplation replaced jubilation after the biggest win of Hayes’ career. “We are here to win it, let’s be clear,” she declared.
Her side have scored 21 goals en route to Sweden and possess considerable firepower through Harder, Kirby and Sam Kerr.
Kerr and Kirby, often deployed as a front two, have combined for 30 goals in the 19 games they have started together in 2021 and are supported by Harder, Ji So-yun and Melanie Leupolz.
Their attacking prowess has been augmented by a watertight defence, reinforced by goalkeeper Ann-Katrin Berger who has been in impressive form all season.
A new name will be added to the trophy this year as Barcelona, who are also bidding for a maiden Champions League crown, stand between Chelsea and glory.
The Catalans, unlike Chelsea, have reached the final before when they lost 4-1 to Europe’s pre-eminent force Lyon in Budapest in 2019.
I respect them immensely but we’re going there to win it
- Emma Hayes
Lluís Cortés’ side dumped out Manchester City in the quarter-finals this year despite losing the second leg. Ultimately, a brilliant 3-0 victory in the first leg in Monza, Italy - which was inspired by the superb Asisat Oshoala - was enough to see them reach the last four.
Their run continued with a semi-final victory over a PSG side who ended Lyon’s five-year reign as champions in the previous round.
After a 1-1 draw in France, two goals from Lieke Martens gave them a second-leg victory to send them through to the final and a shot at atoning their galling defeat two seasons ago.
Cortés, who has a degree in Advertising and Public Relations and joined the club as an analyst in 2017, has built a squad capable of taking on any of Europe’s traditional forces.
Since their semi-final loss to Wolfsburg in last season’s competition, Barcelona have won 35, drawn two and lost one of 38 competitive games, scoring an astonishing 166 goals and conceding only 13.
They wrapped up a record sixth Spanish title with eight games to spare last Sunday, having won all 26 league fixtures so far.
Jenni Hermoso, who re-joined the club in 2019 after departing for Paris two years earlier, is the club’s leading scorer in Europe this season with six. In the last two seasons, she has scored 55 goals while Nigerian forward Oshoala has bagged 47.
Despite their prodigious record in front of goal, both forwards rarely start together and Hermoso may get the nod on Sunday because of Oshoala’s recent injury struggles.
Alexia Putellas and Aitana Bonmati operate in advanced midfield positions and have played integral roles in the club’s quest to break their European duck.
Speaking ahead of the first competitive meeting between the clubs, Hayes spoke of her admiration of Barcelona whose rise up the ranks bears similarities to Chelsea’s.
“We know how well they possess the ball,” she said. “I know how good they are, I respect them, I respect their model, I think it mirrors us in a lot of ways, except the type of players they bring and their style might be different.
“I respect them immensely but we’re going there to win it.”
Chelsea have already made history by becoming the first club ever to see its men’s and women’s sides reach the Champions League final in the same season but that comes as no surprise to Hayes since the club are “all about winning things, not just getting here”.
“We always talk about winning in this place, that’s what comes with the territory,” she added.
“We don’t mind the pressure, the expectations, the tags, whatever comes with it, we just know we’re a club that wants to be in winning positions.”
Can her side continue that winning tradition by beating Barcelona and conquering Europe?
Watch Chelsea v Barcelona for free on BT Sport from 7.15pm on Sunday 16 May.