- Chelsea and Barcelona face off in the UEFA Women’s Champions League final
- A host of international players want to impress before the Olympics
- Australian Sam Kerr finished top scorer in this season’s English league
Olympique Lyonnais’ dominance of the UEFA Women’s Champions League has come to an end this year. After five successive titles, OL lost to Paris Saint-Germain in this edition’s quarter-finals and can now only watch as a new champion is set to be crowned this weekend.
This Sunday, Barcelona (victors over PSG in their semi-final) and Chelsea (winners against Bayern Munich in theirs) will battle it out for the continental crown. Both teams go into the decider brimming with confidence, Barça having recently become Spanish champions, and the Blues having done likewise in England.
For many players taking part, Sunday’s showdown is not just about the European title, but also about impressing and showing off their best form just two months before the start of the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament.
Players to watch
Sweden’s Magdalena Eriksson has been with Chelsea since 2017 and their captain since 2019. Voted Sweden’s Player of the Year in 2020, she is a technically-gifted defender who has brought greater solidity to the side. In short, whenever Eriksson, one of Europe’s best central defenders, is on the pitch, her team looks more secure. If that were not enough, she is also capable of launching attacks and making decisive forward forays. She made her full debut for Sweden in 2014 and was part of the side that took silver at Rio 2016.
Australian Sam Kerr has long been considered an exceptional talent. Possessing extraordinary speed and lethal finishing, she has been wearing the colours of Chelsea since early 2020 and is currently one of their leading strikers. Kerr made her first international appearance in February 2009 aged just 15, in the process becoming the youngest player to line up for the Matildas in a decade. Since 2011, she has taken part in three FIFA Women’s World Cups and one Olympic tournament. After reaching the quarter-finals of Rio 2016, Kerr is now hoping to do even better in Tokyo.
While Kerr claimed this season’s Women’s Super League top-scorer award (21 goals), Kirby posted some impressive stats of her own. With 16 goals and 11 assists, she is now Chelsea’s all-time top scorer. Furthermore, the 27-year-old helped Chelsea become only the third team in history to win back-to-back WSL titles and only the second English club to reach the Champions League final. The striker made her England debut in 2014 and was the second-youngest member of the Lionesses squad at the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2015™. To date, she has made 45 appearances for her country and scored 12 times, including key goals at UEFA EURO 2017 and the 2018 SheBelieves Cup.
The 28-year-old Dutch winger has already amassed an impressive medal collection. In the orange of the Netherlands, she tasted European Championship glory in 2017 and finished runners-up at the World Cup two years later. At an individual level, she was named European Footballer of the Year in 2017, the same year she picked up The Best FIFA Women’s Player award. Her exemplary performances paved the way for a 2017 move to Barcelona, who she helped win the Primera Division for the first time in five years in 2020. She has also played an important role in establishing the Catalan side among the continental elite and was instrumental in their reaching a maiden Champions League final in 2019, when they lost 4-1 to Lyon. Now with the Oranje Leeuwinnen set for their Olympics debut in Tokyo, could Martens add to her honours list by leading them to a medal there?