By Simon Evans
BUDAPEST (Reuters) – Women’s football giants Lyon face a strong challenge to their domination of the Champions League when they take on Barcelona in Saturday’s final at Ferencvaros Stadium, looking for a fourth straight title.
Lyon, packed with international talent, hold a record five Champions League titles having made the final eight times since 2010.
In contrast, Barca are playing in their first Champions League final after beating Bayern Munich in the last four to become the first Spanish team to reach the final.
Should they triumph, Barca would become the first club to win the Champions League with both male and female teams.
The Spaniards play a style of football inkeeping with their club’s tradition and Lyon coach Reynald Pedros said his team would have to limit their effectiveness in midfield.
“Barcelona play ball possession, they are a very technical team. We played them last season and the team hasn’t changed much, they have the same philosophy. They have a talented squad and we don’t want to allow them to express themselves too much,” he said.
The French side start as favourites though with Olympique Lyon’s sustained investment in the team having built a squad packed with talent and experience.
French forward Eugenie Le Sommer has been a key part of the team’s sustained success but says their achievements have in no way undermined their hunger for more trophies.
“It would be great to win the Champions League again. It would be my sixth and that would be just extraordinary. So I will cross my fingers and hope it happens,” she said.
As well as a strong core drawn from the French national side, Lyon can call on England defender Lucy Bronze and Canada centre-half Kadeisha Buchanan.
Japan captain and playmaker Saki Kumagai makes up a strong midfield alongside Germany midfielder Dzsenifer Marozsan. In attack, Lyon can call on one of the very best in the women’s game, Norwegian striker and 2018 Ballon d’Or winner Ada Hegerberg.
“It would mean everything to make history with a fourth win in a row,” said Hegerberg. “This is the most beautiful competition in my eyes,”
Barca also have plenty of international talent with Dutch forward Lieke Martens and England striker Toni Duggan although they will be without suspended French midfielder Kheira Hamraoui.
Barca’s experienced defender Marta Torrejon says the players feel a sense of responsibility after the commitment the club have shown to building the women’s team.
“The club is betting on us, the women’s team, which is greatly appreciated and there is no better way for us to pay them back than with achievements and triumphs,” she said.
This year, UEFA has ended its practice of holding the Women’s Champions League final in the same week and city as the men’s version with the stand-alone final taking place at the home of Hungarian club Ferencvaros.
There will be some local interest for fans with Marozsan having been born in Hungary and despite spending her career in Germany she is the country’s best known female player.
“This will be my favourite final, I am at home. I am proud to be born in Budapest so this final is perfect for me, to play in front of my family. It was a dream, now it is true,” she told reporters.
“But of course, it’s really important for us as a team, and as a club – we can make history. It is a big motivation for us to be able to win a fourth year in a row.”
(Reporting by Simon Evans, editing by Pritha Sarkar)