WCL final: Barcelona aim to ease ‘trauma’ of 2022 against Wolfsburg

The Ballon d’Or winner Alexia Putellas has said Barcelona “owe the fans a victory” in Saturday’s Champions League final against Wolfsburg after last year’s “traumatic” 3-1 defeat by Lyon.

Barcelona fans, having twice sold out the Camp Nou in the team’s run to last season’s final in Turin, travelled in force to Italy. Planes were filled and 37 coaches made the trip overnight from the Catalan capital. The supporters witnessed their team fall three goals behind within 33 minutes as Lyon flexed their muscles. Despite that, you could have been forgiven for thinking after the full-time whistle that Barcelona had triumphed, because the stadium swayed to the tune of their fans.

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“You always have to know how to handle the pressure when you start playing for Barça,” Putellas said. “You know what it means; you have to aim for perfection. There’s always room for improvement in sport, there’s always pressure. The defeat in Turin last year did affect us, with so many fans travelling there, but it was not to be in the end. I feel like that was our worst performance of the season after playing at such a high level throughout the campaign. We feel like we owe the fans a victory in the final. We will play at 100% and do everything for the team and hope this combination will bear fruit.”

Fans are expected to travel in similar numbers to the sold-out final in Eindhoven and Putellas emphasised how much it matters. “That is a really big deal,” she said. “We would like to thank all of the fans for making the effort to be here. We know some fans are coming by bus, more than 15 hours. We know people are putting in a huge effort and spending a lot of money too and we are really grateful. Having the fans there will make a huge difference. The fans have responded to the call, they are here, and they will push us forward and help us. I can’t say that means we will win, but it’s certainly a factor that gets us closer to our target which is taking the trophy back to Barcelona.”

Barcelona’s manager, Jonatan Giráldez, echoed those sentiments, saying that Barcelona “don’t just need to win on the pitch but in the stands”.

Putellas said she is “100% fit”, having recently returned from an anterior cruciate ligament injury that sidelined her before last summer’s Euros, meaning Giráldez has every player available.

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Included in that number are England’s Lucy Bronze and Keira Walsh. Bronze has been here before, having won the Champions League twice with Lyon, but this is Walsh’s first final. “She’s a fantastic player,” said her teammate Caroline Graham Hansen. “We’re very lucky to have her. She has very good vision for the game. She has adapted well. It’s not easy to come to Barça and play as a No 6. She has taken on that role with ease. Her passing, her understanding of the game, where she can win the ball for us and make us keep attacking, it’s been amazing. Also, as a person in the locker room she’s been fantastic to have, a very good person that gives a lot to the football team outside of the pitch. It is very important to create a good team vibe, to work for each other, when it is a big game like this you need to have the team being connected on and off the field.”

Wolfsburg also have a full-strength squad. These teams met in last season’s semi-finals, with the German side losing 5-1 away before earning a 2-0 home win. “We showed that we learned a lot in that one week,” said their manager, Tommy Stroot. “There were developments there from the first game. We have made steps forward this whole season.

“Before this season, I said I would like to play Barcelona in one game, in a final, because we think we can win. We have good qualities, special qualities and we have a good squad, and we want to show what we have.”

Putellas said fine details would determine the outcome. “Last year the small details made the difference and I think it will be the same tomorrow,” she said. “I think we have improved in the last two years. We have more ways of playing, we are more versatile and we know each other better. We can play in open games and if other teams shut up shop, we can cope with that too. We can dig in. We have improved in every part of our game.”