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A quick glance at Barcelona’s substitutes for their UEFA Women’s Champions League quarter-final against Manchester City told you everything you need to know about the quality of their team.
The Spanish champions leftLieke Martens, the 2017 FIFA and UEFA Player of the Year,Jenni Hermoso, the top scorer in Spain for four of the last five seasons,and captain Vicky Losada on the bench – and still won 3-0.
If anyone had questioned the strength ofthe Spanish league and whether Barcelona–top of the table with 20 wins from 20 games, after scoring 99 goals and conceding just three –were the real deal, they were given an emphatic response on Wednesday afternoon in Monza.
The rest of Europe will also have noted that Barcas margin of victory could have been even greater, with the impressive Ellie Roebuck having thwarted a number of other excellent efforts on City’s goal.
This is a Barcelona team stacked with talent.In Alexia Putellas, they have a genuine world-class midfielder,whileCaroline Graham Hansen is one of the best forwards on the planet.
The likes of Patri Guijarro and Aitana Bonmati, meanwhile, are still very young, butproven talents.And we could go on.
Of course, this is a team that has only reached the Women’s Champions League final once before, back in 2019, but Barca now lookmore than capable of taking that final step.
“When we put the pieces together, we can beat any team in Europe,” manager Lluis Cortes said.It is beginning to look that way.
To have won 3-0 and there still be a sense that things could have been even better says something very significant about this sides potential.
However, they will be hoping that the fact the scoreline wasn’t bigger was more down to her Roebuck’s display, rather than a re-emergence of thewastefulness that plagued last yearsChampions League campaign.
In their 2019-20 semi-final defeat to Wolfsburg, Barca created more than enough chances to progress to the final; they just didn’t put any of them away.
“We played a good game and we had enough big chances to score at least three goals,” Graham Hansen said after that 1-0 loss. “But we scored zero and they had one goal out of nothing so, for me, it feels very hard to take, this defeat.”
In the opening exchanges of Wednesday’s win over Manchester City, one wondered if thatBarcelona –rather than the ruthlessly efficientversionthat is dominating in Spain –had turned up to play.
However, once the deadlock was broken, they never looked like letting their opponents off the hook.
Asisat Oshoala scored a terrific opening goal, then won a penalty for Mariona to convert. Hermoso pounced on the rebound of Putellas’ saved shot in the final moments to make it three.
Cortes called it “one of the best” games his team has played. For it to come again a City team who, in his words, are second “in the best league in the world” was a sign that Barcelona have what it takes to rise to these occasions in the Champions League this season.
They’ll have to, as well. Next week, they’ll face a spirited City side in the second leg who will not roll over or be disheartened from this defeat.
Head coach Gareth Taylor’s comments after the game appeared strange to some –“I think we can turn it around. I think we can do it, no problem at all” – but he has reason to be confident in his team’s ability to win big.
City are the top scorers in the Womens Super League. They might not play Barcelona every week, but they have a wonderful attack and are a very good team. That they were beaten so comfortably on Wednesday is huge credit to Barca.
In the semi-finals, either Lyon, European champions for the last five years, or Paris Saint-Germain, who are top of the French league, will await in the last four.
And if they can win that game, the team most are predictingto conquer the other half of the draw is Chelsea, the leadersof, as Cortes calls it, the best league in the world.
The old saying is that to be the best, you must beat the best. On paper, Barcelona can get there.