LIVE: Barcelona vs Wolfsburg – Women’s Champions League final

Welcome to Al Jazeera’s live coverage of the Women’s Champions League final between Barcelona and Wolfsburg. Follow the latest updates:

  • The match in the Dutch city of Eindhoven kicks off at 4pm local time (14:00 GMT).
  • Barcelona will be hoping to clinch their second title in three years while Wolfsburg are seeking to lift the trophy for the first time since 2014.
  • The showdown at Philips Stadion, or PSV Stadion, will be the first sold-out final since 2010 with more than 34,000 fans in the stands.
  • Barcelona have won the last four straight league titles while Wolfsburg narrowly missed out on the Bundesliga this season to Bayern Munich.

    As kick-off approaches …

    Check out our videos below about the rise of the women’s game in countries such as Somalia, the Philippines and Qatar.

    We are capable of defeating Barcelona’: Wolfsburg coach

    Tommy Stroot took over the reins at Wolfsburg in 2021, aged just 32, after winning two league titles with Twente in the Netherlands.

    “We know what to expect and what challenge awaits us,” Stroot said before the final.

    “Despite that, and due to our development from last season, we are capable of defeating Barcelona in a game. That will be our challenge. We know that it is the biggest challenge that we will face this year, but we also know it’s possible because of the second leg we had,” added Stroot, referencing last season’s 2-0 win.

    Describing the stadium as “fantastic, especially for a final”, Stroot said he was “incredibly excited [about] it”.

    “This is what you work towards your whole life.”

    Wolfsburg ‘very difficult to beat’: Barcelona coach

    Jonatan Giraldez has been the head coach of Barcelona since the summer of 2021.

    Last year, he led the team to the final, which they lost to serial champions Lyon, and to domestic glory. The Catalan giants successfully defended their league title this season with 28 wins, one draw and one defeat, which came only in the final game.

    Speaking ahead of Saturday’s final, Giraldez said: “[Wolfsburg] have top-level players in every position, especially in midfield and up front.“They are unique players at creating spaces. They are unique in one-on-ones, at playing that final pass, at shooting. They are a very difficult team to beat because of the way they defend.”

    Meet the referees

    Cheryl Foster, from Wales, will be refereeing her first UEFA Women’s Champions League final.

    The 42-year-old, a former player who represented Wales 63 times, has taken charge of three matches in the competition this season, including the quarter-final second leg between Wolfsburg and Paris Saint-Germain.

    Foster will be assisted by the Republic Ireland’s Michelle O’Neill and Franca Overtoom from the Netherlands, with England’s Natalie Aspinall acting as reserve assistant referee.  The fourth official is Rebecca Welch, also from England.

    The video assistant role has been assigned to Italian Massimiliano Irrati, and he will be accompanied by Sian Massey from England and Paolo Valeri from Italy.

    Wolfsburg player to watch

    For Alexandra Popp, who led the German league in scoring with 16 goals, this will be her seventh Champions League final.

    The 32-year-old Germany international was a teenager on Duisburg’s championship team in 2009 before joining Wolfsburg and helping the She-Wolves win the trophy in 2013 and 2014.

    “The best way is to not let [Barcelona] play,” Popp said before the showdown.

    “If they have the ball and start playing their tiki-taka football, and you’re too late going in for a challenge, then it’s really tough to get the ball.”

    Barcelona player to watch

    Let’s take a look at some of the key players to watch in the final.

    Barcelona’s Aitana Bonmati leads the Champions League with seven assists but the creative midfielder is also clinical in front of goal. The 25-year-old has scored five times, which is tied for second-most in the competition.

    “It’ll be a very close game,” the Spain international said ahead of the final.

    “I’m very wary of Wolfsburg. They’re a great team with big players. They’ve made it to the final, and not for the first time either.”

    Since you’re here

    Check out some of our coverage around the women’s game, including this piece by Jillian Kestler-D’Amours on the Canadian team’s push for equality.

    The national team is coming off a gold-medal victory in 2021 at the Tokyo Olympics and is now pushing for World Cup glory under the leadership of captain Christine Sinclair, international football’s all-time leading scorer for both men and women.

    Yet Sinclair and her teammates’ on-field successes have taken a backseat to another fight being waged off the pitch as they demand pay equity and greater support from Canada Soccer, the body that governs football in the country.

    Goal machine

    Wolfsburg’s Ewa Pajor is the top scorer in the competition, having netted eight times so far.

    For the 26-year-old Polish forward, a win would be a decade-long dream come true. In 2013, as a young player at Polish side Medyk Konin, she received a signed ball from the Champions League winners for being player of the match in the Polish Cup final.

    “It’s at home, it’s on a shelf and every time I come home, I look at it and of course I dream of winning the Champions League together with Wolfsburg, too. Now, if we won, it would be something amazing because it’s exactly 10 years later,” she said.

    Putellas on the bench?

    Barcelona’s star midfielder Alexia Putellas is back from a lengthy anterior cruciate ligament injury, but the two-time Ballon d’Or winner has yet to start a game since her return at the end of April.

    She came off the bench in each of the last six Spanish league games and scored in Barcelona’s league season finale.The Spanish champions should also have defender Lucy Bronze and forward Fridolina Rolfo available after both missed time with knee problems.

    The venue

    The home ground to the Dutch side PSV, Philips Stadion or PSV Stadion is located in the heart of Eindhoven.

    First opened more than a century ago, the stadium now has a capacity of close to 35,000.

    The venue has a long history of staging major matches, including the UEFA Cup finals of 1978 and 2006, the second leg of the 1988 UEFA Super Cup and three games at the Euros in 2000.

    With no tickets left, there should be a vibrant atmosphere today as both teams have picked up an allocation of more than 4,500 for their own fans.

    The sold-out clash is expected to set a record for a women’s game in the Netherlands, which stands at 30,640 in the same venue in 2019 when the national team hosted Australia.

    Welcome to our live blog

    Thank you for joining us as we build up to our coverage of the highly anticipated showdown between Barcelona and Wolfsburg.

    This is the third final in a row for attack-minded Barcelona and their fourth in the past five years. The Catalan club beat Chelsea 4-0 in 2021 to become the first team from Spain to win the title. In last year’s final, they lost to Lyon 3-1.

    Wolfsburg, meanwhile, will play in their sixth final in little more than a decade. The spirited German side have won the competition twice, in 2013 and 2014, and finished as runners-up in 2016, 2018 and 2020.

    Stay with us!

    Source: Aljazeera