They may be trailing holders VfL Wolfsburg 3-0 going into Sunday's home quarter-final second leg, but FC Barcelona are in high spirits after midweek league success.
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They may trail UEFA Women's Champions League holders VfL Wolfsburg 3-0 going into Sunday's home quarter-final second leg, but FC Barcelona are certainly in high spirits.
Having lost in Germany last weekend, Barcelona returned home on Wednesday to beat Athletic Club 1-0 with a 74th-minute Jenni Hermoso goal to move within a point of a third straight Spanish title – and a European return next season. Hermoso, a January signing from Tyresö FF, is ineligible to face Wolfsburg, but Xavi Llorens's side are far from throwing in the towel ahead of the Mini Estadi rematch.
"In Wolfsburg, I saw a team superior to our own," said the 55-year-old coach, whose team are the first Spanish club to make it this far. "They beat us on the right, on the left and down the middle with their passing and forced us to make a titanic effort in defence; we could only congratulate them afterwards. Nevertheless, we will take the game to them at home. We might not like it now but these games against top opponents will benefit us in the future."
Defender Marta Unzué agreed, saying: "We did the best we could; we fought for every ball and tried to create chances for ourselves. We're the first Spanish side to reach this stage and nobody can take this experience away from us."
While Barcelona are cruising domestically, last year's German double winners Wolfsburg are out of the cup and lying third in the Frauen Bundesliga, five points behind 1. FFC Frankfurt with eight games left. That means this is the most likely trophy Wolfsburg can retain of the three they won for the first time last term – yet they know Barcelona are not to be taken lightly if they are to proceed to a probable all-German semi-final against another side ahead of them in the league, 1. FFC Turbine Potsdam.
"[Barcelona] have a playing style similar to that of their male club colleagues," said Wolfsburg captain Nadine Kessler. "In the first leg we attacked them early and they could not play their tiki-taka game. But it could still be dangerous for us."
Meanwhile, Russian striker Olga Petrova, a winter recruit from WFC Rossiyanka, has left Wolfsburg by mutual consent after failing to break into the first team. "It is incredibly sad because we are still convinced of her qualities," said coach Ralf Kellermann. "But her homesickness became too great in the last week, so we decided to part company."