Soccer

UEFA Women’s Champions League final: Lieke Martens and Barcelona poised to make more history vs. Chelsea

Barcelona Femeni wrapped up a historic perfect season in La Liga Iberdrola, Spain’s top-flight for women’s soccer, as they claimed the domestic title for the sixth time in club history. During their 26-game season, which included a historic game at the legendary Camp Nou, the team set a remarkable goal differential record (+123), with 128 scored and just five conceded. Twenty-six wins and 78 points out of a possible 78. 

Next up is another opportunity for more silverware — the chance to be crowned champions of Europe for the first time in club history — as they face Chelsea in UEFA Women’s Champions League final on Sunday in Gothenburg, Sweden. You can catch all the action on Paramount+, with pre-match coverage starting at 2:30 p.m. ET on CBS Sports HQ.

Lieke Martens has been with the club since 2017, the same year where she led Netherlands to the UEFA Women’s Euro championship and earned The Best FIFA Women’s Player and UEFA Women’s Player of the Year honors. The winger has helped the team dominate the Spanish league and become title contenders in Champions League over her time with the club. No Spanish club has ever won the UWCL title.

The Dutch international was part of Barca’s 2018-19 Champions League final campaign where they came up short against seven-time winners Olympique Lyonnais. Martens told CBS Sports the team has evolved over the years to be in their best form yet ahead of Sunday’s big final.

“It’s true, as far as I think, it’s also what I said before: This team has based mostly Spanish players, they all have played like in the Spanish league for many years,” Martens said.

“[Now we have] Some young players, some old players, experienced players. Players who have really a lot of talent. So, I think that makes us really good. We have a really good balance to the team now. So I think it’s also a really good compliment for the big compliment for the club, finding the right people together.”

Sunday’s final is being billed as one of the biggest European matches of the club season, with some questions around what ahistoric game at the legendary Camp Nou undefeated Barca side could face going up against an equally accomplished Chelsea squad. Like Barcelona, Chelsea are looking to make history as the first English club since Arsenal (2007) to win the UEFA Women’s Champions League. Martens believes the Catalonian giants have overcome big challenges throughout their campaign and are ready for the next obstacle ahead.

“The spirit in the team at the moment is so good,” Martens said. “So, I think that’s the most important thing. What we have in the team, when you’re winning like a lot of games, it feels better.”

Unlike the perfect league season, Barca’s path to the UWCL final did come with a few (minor) road bumps: A 2-1 loss in the second leg of the quarterfinals against Manchester City and a 1-1 draw in the first leg of the semifinals against PSG.

“The two games against Manchester City or PSG; well we have one that gave us really good, good confidence [and] that’s what we needed. Like always, we look to the big clubs ‘Oh they’re so good, they’re so good’ but we’re also really, really good. And we had a really good moment [against them], so I hope we can prove it again in the final.”

The team has continued their preparations for their biggest test yet, though within Barcelona’s strengths and opportunities, the 28-year-old Martens wants to take the time to enjoy big moment while preparing for one of the biggest matches in her career. She believes Barca should focus on playing their game to their strengths rather than adjust to the opponent.

“I think at one point you should also really enjoy it. I think maybe feel the final like it’s something really special. You have to give 100%. We have worked the whole season for this,” Martens explained.

“Of course, some little details looking [toward] the opponent, and Chelsea is different than other opponents, so we have to look [at] what we have to do different in some games. At the end, I think the most important thing is to look to our playing style, playing our game, having our own possession, because that’s our strength. And from there we have to, hopefully, control the game.”



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