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Barcelona and Lyon on course for Women’s Champions League final clash

Holders Barcelona and record seven-time winners Lyon are on course for a Women’s Champions League final showdown next month as they take leads into the second legs of their semi-final ties this weekend.

A Barcelona side captained by reigning Ballon d’Or Alexia Putellas appear unstoppable in the women’s game, as last week’s 5-1 trouncing of Wolfsburg at the Camp Nou demonstrated.

Putellas, 28, scored twice after earlier goals by Aitana Bonmati, Caroline Graham Hansen and Jennifer Hermoso as Barcelona outclassed the Germans and left themselves with one foot in the Turin final even before Saturday’s return leg.

Jill Roord’s goal in Catalonia was a mere consolation for Wolfsburg, who will need little short of a miracle if they are to reach a sixth final in 10 years.

Barcelona have been in two of the last three finals and are seeking to retain the title after crushing Chelsea 4-0 in Gothenburg last year.

The Spanish champions have won their last 45 games in a row, and they have more than captured the imagination locally, with the first leg attracting a world record crowd for a women’s game of 91,648.

“Two or three years ago we were two or three levels below them, but we have improved a lot, especially physically,” said Barca’s Spanish international midfielder, Patri Guijarro, of the comparison between her team and Wolfsburg.

Wolfsburg coach Tommy Stroot admitted his side will be playing mainly for pride at the Volkswagen Arena.

“Beating a team like this 5-1 or more in the return leg may not be a realistic approach, but we’ll still be looking to go out there and give a much better account of ourselves,” he said.

French record crowd

Lyon, who beat Barcelona in the 2019 final, have a 10th final in 13 seasons within reach after beating Paris Saint-Germain 3-2 in the first leg of their all-French last-four tie.

The sides meet again at the Parc des Princes on Saturday and the encounter will be watched by a new record attendance in the country for a women’s club game.

Over 37,000 tickets had been sold by Wednesday, already shattering the previous mark of 30,661 for a league game between the two teams in Lyon in 2019.

Ada Hegerberg, the 2018 Ballon d’Or winner, may have been in the Lyon line-up but the star of the first leg was Catarina Macario, the United States international who netted twice.

Lyon have twice beaten PSG in the semi-finals and also came out on top when the teams met in the 2017 final, while they are set to reclaim the domestic title from the Parisians.

Yet in reality the main difference between the clubs in the first leg was the goalkeeping performance of PSG’s Barbora Votikova, who was at fault for all three goals conceded including a farcical gaffe for Lyon’s final counter.

– Hamraoui affair –

“We were all disappointed about her performance. We had a feeling of helplessness but we are all behind her and we are sure that we will qualify for the final thanks to her,” insisted PSG coach Didier Olle-Nicolle after the first leg.

PSG’s preparations have been hampered by the fall-out from the unresolved attack on their French international midfielder Kheira Hamraoui.

She did not play in the first leg after a training-ground clash with team-mate Sandy Baltimore, and will not feature in the return either.

Last November, Hamraoui, 32, was dragged from a car and beaten on the legs with an iron bar.

Aminata Diallo, Hamraoui’s team-mate, was detained by police immediately after the incident but has always denied involvement.

Hamraoui’s relationship with several of her teammates has reportedly deteriorated because they blame her for Diallo’s arrest.

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