Barcelona need a comeback to keep Champions League hopes alive

Chelsea beat the Catalan side 1-0 in the first leg of the Women's Champions League semifinal.
FC Barcelona v Chelsea FC Women: Semi-final First Leg - UEFA Women's Champions League
FC Barcelona v Chelsea FC Women: Semi-final First Leg - UEFA Women's Champions League / David Ramos/GettyImages

On Saturday, Barcelona Femení will find themselves in an unfamiliar situation. In London, at Stamford Bridge against Chelsea, the Catalan side will need to mount a comeback if they want to reach their third straight Champions League final.

That's because Barcelona Femení dropped the first leg of their Champions League semifinal 1-0 to Chelsea, playing perhaps their worst game of the season. They were second to every contested ball, sloppy passing, poor control and poor decision making in the final third.

"The first leg was very close, there were few chances. We have to create more. [Chelsea] played a good game defensively," said Barcelona manager Jonatan Giráldez.

Credit to Chelsea who went there to play their game and did a very good job of stifling Barcelona but some of that was self-inflicted.

While Barcelona aren't used to trailing, they do have some experience with coming back in an important Champions League match. They did so last season, in the final no less, to turn around a 2-0 deficit against Wolfsburg and win 3-0 to win their second Champions League title.

It's because of that experience and the quality that Barcelona possess, that there is a belief in the dressing room that they can turn this tie around at Stamford Bridge.

"It's a different challenge, but the match is one that motivates us," said Aitana Bonmatí. "We have been able to overcome more difficult moments, like in the Eindhoven final. We turned that around in 45 minutes, so we can also do that in 90.

"I always say that you learn from defeats. You can reflect and learn from what you haven't done well. We are not used to losing, but we have full confidence in what we have done during the week."

It's difficult to imagine Barcelona putting in a similar performance to that of the first leg. But if anyone can reduce them to that it's Chelsea. These two sides have faced one another recently with the Catalan side coming out the victor, including in the final back in 2021.

With the exception of Mapi Leon, who did make travel with the team as a show of support, every other player is available for selection.

The question for Giráldez is who he lines up in attack. Caroline Graham Hansen and Salma Paralluelo were rested in their midweek match against Levante Las Planas so it's a safe bet to assume they'd both start.

Mariona Caldentey had a poor first leg and has looked off for a while now as her contract is coming to an end and it appears it's affected her. Claudia Pina scored a brace against Levante so she could be a surprise starter.

Chelsea did a good job of isolating Graham Hansen as aside from the opening minutes, she was kept at bay. It's important for Barcelona to be able to use the other wing in order to be able to stretch the Chelsea defense.

Another player who is going to need to step up is Ona Batlle.

Batlle also had a poor first leg where nothing went her way. Her passes were off and she had a tough time controlling the ball. Her being off was worrisome considering she was playing in her natural position at right-back. She had been used as a left-back with Fridolina Rolfo out but is now back.

Barcelona managed to eke out a 1-0 win at Stamford Bridge last season. This time around, that scoreline would only serve to send the game to extra time.

Barcelona would need to win by at least two goals if they want to avoid extra time and possibly penalties. One has to assume they'd also take their chances either in extra time or in penalties.


In any case, Barcelona need a win if they want to keep their dreams of reaching their third Champions League final in a row, and a chance to win their third European title in club history, alive.