Football

UEFA Women's Champions League Semifinals Preview: Barcelona, Chelsea And Lyon, PSG Clash

The Women's Champions League semi-finals kicking off Saturday have a bit of everything, check out the preview of the two big clashes here

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Barcelona will take on Chelsea and Lyon and PSG will clash in the UEFA Women's Champions League Semifinals Photo: X/@UWCL
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Power struggles, intriguing matchups and fond farewells.  (More Football News)

The Women's Champions League semi-finals kicking off Saturday have a bit of everything.

Two teams are trying to assert their continental dominance and the other two are fighting to be crowned European champion for the first time.

Defending champion Barcelona hosts Chelsea in their first-leg match on Saturday afternoon before eight-time champion Lyon takes on French rival Paris Saint-Germain in the evening. The second leg is the following weekend.

Barcelona is going for its third title in four years, while Lyon is seeking its record-extending ninth. Lyon has “only” been to one final in the past three years. That's great by most standards but off the pace from Lyon's earlier dominance. It won five in a row from 2016-2020.

Should Lyon and Barcelona advance to the May 25 final in Bilbao, Spain, it would be a rematch of the 2022 decider, when Lyon won 3-1.

Chelsea and PSG have never won the Champions League or its predecessor, the UEFA Women's Cup. In its only final appearance, Chelsea was routed 4-0 by Barcelona in 2021. PSG has been runner-up twice — in 2015 to Frankfurt and two years later to Lyon.

As manager, Emma Hayes has led Chelsea to more than a dozen major domestic titles, but the Champions League has eluded her. She's got another shot before leaving London to take over as coach of the USA women's national team.

“The team wants to win for themselves, they want to win for the football club, they want to win for their families, they want to win because they're winners. They're sick to death of what they need to do for me, and that's fair, it's not about me, it's about them,” Hayes said of Chelsea's push for trophies in her final season.

Barcelona coach Jonatan Giráldez is also headed across the Atlantic after this season, to become coach of the NWSL's Washington Spirit.

Here's a closer look at the matches:

BARCELONA-CHELSEA

Two-time champion Barcelona has had the upper hand against the Blues, having beaten them in the 2021 final and last year's semi-finals. The home team on Saturday afternoon has the star power, too, with Ballon d'Or winner Aitana Bonmati leading a potent attack that includes two-time Ballon d'Or winner Alexia Putellas, Salma Paralluelo, Caroline Graham Hansen, and Fridolina Rolfö. It can be a nightmare for any defence.

The Catalan club is undefeated this season. Barcelona beat Wolfsburg 3-2 in last season's Champions League final. For Saturday, Barcelona has had a week to prepare, unlike Chelsea, which lost 2-1 to Manchester United on Sunday in the FA Cup semi-finals and played on Wednesday in England's domestic league. The London team has missed the firepower of striker Sam Kerr, who sustained an ACL injury in January. Lauren James, Mayra Ramirez and Sjoeke Nüsken have picked up the slack. Fran Kirby is also a threat. James missed Wednesday's game with an unspecified injury and her status for Saturday was unclear. US forward Catarina Macario made her first start for Chelsea in midweek. The second leg is at Stamford Bridge the following Saturday.

LYON-PSG

Lyon hosts Paris Saint-Germain on Saturday evening in an all-French matchup that has usually gone Lyon's way. Lyon beat PSG in the 2017 final — on penalties — and three other times in the semifinals, while PSG's latest Champions League success against its rival was in the 2020-21 quarterfinals.

In the off-season, Kadidiatou Diani left PSG to join Lyon, and the France international now leads the Champions League with seven goals this season. Teammate Ada Hegerberg, who signed a contract extension this week, has five goals and is the tournament's all-time top scorer (64 goals).

PSG may have lost Diani, but it found an emerging star in Malawi forward Tabitha Chawinga to pair with the prolific Marie-Antoinette Katoto. And, PSG was moments away from victory in Lyon in the French league earlier this season before settling for a 1-1 draw after a 90th-minute own-goal.

The game at Groupama Stadium is expected to break the attendance record for a Lyon women's home match with more than 35,000 tickets sold. The current record is 30,661 from a Lyon-PSG match in 2019. The second leg will be at Parc des Princes the following Sunday.

MUSICAL CHAIRS

At least two — possibly three — of the four semifinalists will have new coaches next season. Emma Hayes is taking over as coach of the US women's national team.

Sonia Bompastor has reportedly agreed to replace Hayes at Chelsea. Barcelona coach Jonatan Giráldez will become coach of the NWSL's Washington Spirit in June. Spirit owner Michele Kang is also the majority shareholder of the Lyon women's team. (AP) AYG

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