Dutch midfielder Lieke Martens in the UEFA Women’s Champions League final with FC Barcelona for the second time in three seasons and she feels this time they are more ready for the challenge. Barcelona were in the Champions League final in the 2018-19 season and they went up against the then-five times Champions League winners Lyon and the favourites won 4-1. Two seasons later, Barcelona are in the Champions League final again and this time they are up against FA Women’s Super League champions Chelsea.
Barcelona have had a fantastic season so far and they are already the Primera division champions. They are still unbeaten in the league and have scored a whopping 128 goals in just 26 matches, having conceded only five. Second-placed Levante have played 29 games and despite playing three less games, Barcelona are 16 points ahead of them. Barcelona are also to play the semi-final of Copa de la Reina on May 26 and are favourites to win that tournament too.
With that kind of confidence, FC Barcelona will take on Chelsea in the Champions League final on May 17 and Martens said that within the camp, “the feeling is amazing”.
“We have had a really good season so far. We are really looking forward to the final. We had reached the final in 2019 and we really want to win this time. It’s different from last one, we feel more ready. Hoping for a special one.
“It’s a really good experience for the team that we made the final once. All that experience will help the team play on Sunday. With the pressure and everything else, it will help. We will look to take advantage of everything we have and will like to go on,” Martens said in the media day on Wednesday.
Barcelona had eked out a 3-2 aggregate win against Paris Saint-Germain in the semi-final of the Champions League. With PSG’s high press style, Barcelona were able to dictate terms and play their style. However, Chelsea being a counter-attacking team and once that takes its chances well, it will be a whole different challenge in the final.
Martens opined that Barcelona should play their own game but they key factor would be to make the best of the chances they get during the game. “How we have been playing the whole season, that gives us confidence. We have to make the chances we get count because that is important against big teams since you don’t get too many. They (PSG and Chelsea) are two different teams with different qualities and we have to adapt. We used our opportunities against PSG. Chelsea are counter-attacking and we have to see how we can press on the sides. It’s completely different from PSG.”
Martens called the Champions League final “the most important game of the year” and said despite the Spanish Cup final also coming up, their complete focus is on Sunday.
“We have a really good feeling this season but in the final, anything can happen. We will give our everything, we have been working very hard. I believe in the team and we will be different than two years ago.
“We are focussed on the final because it is the most important game of the year. We have the semi-final of the Cup but that is later and our full focus is on the UCL final,” she said.
Martens herself has had a good season and has been crucial to Barcelona’s success. Martens like to play on the left in the midfield and possesses great technical ability and dribbling skills. For the entirety of the season, she has consistently been a danger to the opponents due to her pace and eye for goal. In fact, Martens scored two goals against PSG in the UWCL semi-finals, which helped her team advance to the final.
“This season I have played well and the whole team’s level is high. We are champions now (in Spain) but the most important game of the year is on Sunday.
“I had to deal with expectations in the beginning of course. My life changed a lot but you can’t keep thinking about it. Later, we changed out style as well, which fits me better. We are more attacking and forward now and that fits me. You can always do better though and I try to push myself everyday,” Martens explained.
Martens chuckled and shared that she likes the fact that not too many people recognise her in Barcelona. “There aren’t too many Dutch people in Barcelona now and so that’s more relaxing (smiles). Mostly Dutch people recognise me and so, I can walk on the street normally and I like it actually.”