Barcelona chasing dynasty in Champions League final – Walsh

BARCELONA — England international Keira Walsh said Barcelona want to take women’s football to new heights as they target a second Champions League trophy when they meet Wolfsburg in Saturday’s final.

Barca are appearing in their fourth final in the last five seasons. They lost to Lyon in 2019 and 2022, but beat Chelsea in 2021 to claim their first-ever piece of silverware in Europe.

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The Blaugrana still have a long way to go to match French champions Lyon, who have won six of the last seven Champions Leagues, but Walsh believes the ambition is there, even if the level of the competition has improved dramatically in recent years.

“Playing these finals is one of the main reasons I came here, as well as just the ambition of the club in general,” said midfielder Walsh, who joined Barca in a world record transfer for women’s football from Manchester City last summer.

“If you look at how many finals they have been in in recent years, it is incredible. To now be in another one, it shows how much the club values women’s football and where they are trying to take it.”

Asked if replicating Lyon’s success is a target, she added: “First and foremost, we want to win on Saturday, but the ambition of this club is to do that with women’s football. That is why the best players are here because they want to win trophies, so that is the idea.

“But the way women’s football is growing, it’s difficult now. Other teams have top players as well: Lyon, Chelsea, Wolfsburg… so it is going to be difficult for any team to go on that run.

“That’s the ambition of this team and the club, though, so never say never. As I said, it’s a top club here and the ambition that they have is to do something like that. So, yeah, why not?”

Domestically, Barca have just won their fourth successive Liga F title and, while they recently lost their 64-match unbeaten streak in the league, Walsh has been impressed by the hunger she has found at the club.

“I think, for me, it was the wanting to win,” she added of the differences she encountered at Barca. “The wanting to be in the Champions League final. Previously, I probably didn’t experience that as much, it was kind of just ‘our next season will be better, next season we’ll do it again.’

“Whereas here, it’s, ‘we want to do it now’ and just pushing the women’s team to be where they should be and really grow women’s football and investing. Also, just trying to make this the best team possible.

“In training, the quality of the coaching and quality of the players is just incredible. For me, the intensity in training, sometimes it is probably more competitive than a game. For me, when I first came, it was crazy. It raises your game to the next level.”

Barca’s progress to this season’s final against Wolfsburg in Eindhoven has come without the back-to-back Ballon d’Or winner Alexia Putellas, who has missed the majority of the campaign with an anterior cruciate ligament injury.

However, Putellas returned to action last month, making five substitute appearances in Liga F at the end of the campaign and scoring one goal, and she is available for Saturday’s match.

“Alexia is unbelievable,” Walsh said. “The way she moves, you have to really understand football to… I mean she scores a lot of goals and assists, but, for me, the way she finds spaces and pockets, her first touch is always away from pressure and she has such good feet.

“Even in training she is amazing and hopefully next season I get to play a little bit more with her, that would be nice. I don’t think it’s for me to decide [if she starts the final], but she’s been training for a long time now, she’s featured in past games.

“I think knowing her and how competitive she is, we all want to play, we want to play 90 minutes, but it’s up to [coach] Jonatan [Giraldez] to decide the team.”

Standing in Barca’s way are two-time Champions League winners Wolfsburg, who the Catalans beat in last year’s semifinal, blowing them away with a 5-1 win in the first leg at Spotify Camp Nou.

Walsh is expecting Wolfsburg, who missed out on the German title to Bayern Munich, to test Barca physically, as Women’s Super League champions Chelsea did in the last round.

“Obviously we had a little bit of that [physicality] against Chelsea with Sam Kerr,” she said. “I think Wolfsburg kind of have that transition in them as well.

“In midfield, I think it’s also trying to find the balance of joining in play and being an option on the ball, but also getting ready to, you know, if we do lose the ball, that we have to defend. That’s something the midfielders have been focusing on. We had a bit of experience in that against Chelsea, so hopefully that will put us in good shape for the final.”