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UEFA Women's Champions League final Barcelona vs Lyon: Get the lowdown

As holders Barcelona prepare to meet record eight-time winners Lyon in Bilbao on 25 May, we pick out some key themes to watch.

UEFA via Getty Images

UEFA Women's Champions League holders Barcelona are set to take on record eight-time winners Lyon in the 2024 final on Saturday 25 May (18:00 CET).

We pick out some key storylines to follow at San Mamés in Bilbao as these two giants of the game contest the crown.

Barcelona meet final boss

Reigning champions Barcelona are through to their fourth straight final, and fifth in six years, aiming to become only the third team to win three titles. Comfortably top of UEFA's coefficient rankings, they also boast many of the stars that inspired Spain to FIFA Women's World Cup and UEFA Women's Nations League glory, and they have proved their pedigree again this season, showing in the semi-finals that not even a home loss to Chelsea could prevent them reaching Bilbao.

However, despite emerging as the dominant women's club side of the 2020s, there remains one hurdle they have yet to clear: beating the team that reigned supreme in the 2010s. In four competitive meetings so far, including two finals, French powerhouse Lyon have triumphed on every occasion.

Previous meetings: Lyon vs Barcelona

In the 2019 showpiece in Budapest, defending champions Lyon began as favourites and won 4-1, with Ada Hegerberg notching a hat-trick as OL grabbed all their goals before half-time. Three years later in Turin, Barcelona were holders and tipped to come out on top, only for Lyon to lead by three at the break and prevail 3-1 to clinch their eighth title.

Barcelona reclaimed the trophy last year and will again be favoured by the majority of pundits in Bilbao. Indeed, the fact that they provided most of the starting XI and both scorers for the Spain side that beat France 2-0 in the Nations League final in February only adds to their reputation. But facing Lyon in a Champions League decider – as Barcelona know only too well – is a challenge like no other.

Barcelona vs Lyon: Previous meetings

2021/22 final: Barcelona 1-3 Lyon (Turin)
2018/19 final: Lyon 4-1 Barcelona (Budapest)
2017/18 quarter-finals: Lyon 3-1agg Barcelona (first leg 2-1, second leg 1-0)

First named team at home in opening game of two-legged ties

New-look Lyon seek old dominance

Of course, in the two years since that thrilling evening in Turin, both teams have evolved. In fact, Lyon may be deprived of all three goalscorers that night as Amandine Henry (who was Player of the Match) and Catarina Macario have left, while Ada Hegerberg is struggling with injury. Instead, the possible Lyon XI in Bilbao contains several talents acquired since, not least attackers Kadidiatou Diani and Melchie Dumornay.

Lyon's road to the final: Every goal

And while the French side suffered a quarter-final exit to Chelsea last year – unlike Barcelona this term, they could not recover from a 1-0 home loss – this season they have arguably been the outstanding team of the competition. Not only do they boast the sole unbeaten record among the 16 clubs that began the group stage, they have outscored Barcelona 36 goals to 34 over their respective ten-game runs.

Much of the credit for that goes to Sonia Bompastor, who in 2022 became the first woman to win UEFA club honours as both a player and head coach. She has overseen a squad which has maintained momentum despite a succession of injuries to key players, including Wendie Renard, Griedge Mbock Bathy, Eugénie Le Sommer, Sara Däbritz and Hegerberg. Lyon do not claim to be the juggernaut that won five straight Champions League titles between 2016 and 2020, but they undeniably have a winning mentality in their DNA.

Lyon's eight Women's Champions League titles

Key match-ups

Although Lyon have been the more prolific of the two teams, and indeed boast the competition top scorer in Diani, the first question is whether they can stifle Barcelona's stellar attack – something Wolfsburg looked to be doing in the 2023 final, only for a 2-0 half-time lead to turn into a 3-2 defeat.

Barcelona's front three usually features Caroline Graham Hansen on the right (supported by Aitana Bonmatí) and some combination of Salma Paralluelo and Mariona Caldentey, though Fridolina Rolfö started on the left away to Chelsea and the Spanish side boast other options including Esmee Brugts and Clàudia Pina.

Always-reliable goalkeeper Christiane Endler, along with Renard and Mbock Bathy, are an experienced combination in the middle for Lyon, while both Ellie Carpenter and Selma Bacha are full-backs who are not only top-level defenders but provide attacking threats of their own which can force their opposite numbers to retreat. Vanessa Gilles should fill in for Mbock Bathy if she is not fit in time.

Lindsey Horan and Damaris Egurrola in midfield will also have important roles in restricting Barcelona, whose talents include the likes of Bonmatí, Patri Guijarro, Keira Walsh, Alexia Putellas (usually a substitute this season) and full-back options Lucy Bronze, Ona Batlle and Rolfö.

Barcelona's road to the final: Every goal

Lyon, of course, showed in their previous finals against Barcelona that they can cause damage early, and Diani has been prolific in Europe this season since her summer switch from Paris Saint-Germain. Initially, that was in combination with Hegerberg and, with the Norwegian having returned on 12 May after two months out injured, she could be a potent weapon to deploy, considering she has scored in four past finals (including both against Barcelona).

Otherwise, Haitian sensation Melchie Dumornay was brilliant against Paris in the semis and Delphine Cascarino looks back to her best out wide after a long injury absence. Horan and Daniëlle van de Donk provide creativity in midfield and Renard's aerial threat is the key reason the centre-back has amassed nearly 200 career goals for club and country.

They are taking on a Barcelona defence that has been missing Mapi León (albeit a rousing presence on the sidelines), but Irene Paredes has partnered well with Ingrid Engen, and their full-back options – plus Walsh in the midfield holding role – give Barcelona a solidity on the rare occasions when they are not in possession. In goal, meanwhile, Catalina Coll has recently become first choice for Barcelona and Spain, and that she has displaced Sandra Paños shows just how good the 23-year-old is.

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