4 things that could decide the Women's Champions League final

  • Barcelona take on Lyon in the UEFA Women’s Champions League final on Saturday
  • The match up has become one of the biggest rivalries in women’s football
  • Eight-time winners Lyon have beaten Barcelona in previous finals in 2019 & 2022
Barcelona are seeking revenge on Lyon for past final defeats
Barcelona are seeking revenge on Lyon for past final defeats / Naomi Baker/GettyImages

Two juggernauts of women’s football will go head to head on Saturday as Barcelona take on Lyon in the 2024 edition of the UEFA Women’s Champions League final in Bilbao.

Lyon are eight-time winners of the competition and the most decorated side in its history, while Barcelona have recently risen to the very top of the women’s game and have enjoyed plenty of success in recent years. It has become one of the biggest rivalries going and this will be the third meeting between the two in a European final in the last six years.

Both teams boast world class talent and both have already swept up silverware this season by securing their respective league titles.

90min has taken a look at where Saturday’s showdown could be won and lost...

The midfield battle

Aitana Bonmati
Barcelona midfielder and Ballon d'Or winner Aitana Bonmati / Quality Sport Images/GettyImages

Aitana Bonmati, Patri Guijarro, Lindsey Horan… that’s just some of the talent these teams possess between them in the middle of the park. In a game that can often be decided by the finest of margins, control in the midfield will be absolutely key for whoever comes out on top.

Whether it’s dictating play in possession, or remaining compact enough to make sure the opposition has no way through - both sets of midfielders will need to be at 100 percent. 

Aston Villa and France star Kenza Dali highlighted the importance of Lyon midfield duo Damaris Egurrola and Horan for the reigning French champions.

"The balance for Lyon, when Damaris is playing, she makes a massive difference," Dali said.

"I'm a massive fan of Horan. She is the greatest of all time for me in the USA. Everyone is talking about [Megan] Rapinoe and [Alex] Morgan, but we’re going to remember what Lindsey has done. She can fit in any team."

Barcelona themselves aren't short of world class talent and, as a midfielder herself, Dali can fully appreciate the significance of the 2023 Ballon d'Or winner, Aitana Bonmati. Decisive for both club and country, there’s few players in the world currently operating at the Spain international’s level.

"She's a joy to watch," Dali continued. "An unbelievable player. Everything I like in a player, she has it."

Game changing substitutions

Lyon's Ada Hegerberg / OLIVIER CHASSIGNOLE/GettyImages

In a fixture that has the possibility of going to extra-time or even penalties, who finishes the game well is equally, if not more important than who starts it on top. How both managers use their bench to potentially turn the game on its head will be significant.

Interestingly, Sonia Bompastor and Jonatan Giraldez will likely be able to turn to former Ballon d'Or winners if necessary. Alexia Putellas, who signed a new contract with Barcelona this week, has often been used from the bench this season and it is likely the final will be no different. 

Vicky Losada, who has played alongside Putellas for both club and country, expects the 30-year-old to be a crucial impact substitution.

"She is so important. When you see her, you see Barca,” the Brighton midfielder said ahead of the final. I don't know if we will see her start, but she'll be coming on for sure. There's so many players with quality on the Barcelona bench."

Lyon have a potential game changer themselves in Ada Hegerberg, who has experienced her fair share of injuries in recent years. The 28-year-old has scored 20 goals in all competitions for her club this term, but has largely been consigned to the bench in recent weeks.

She was an unused substitute against Paris Saint-Germain last Friday, so her availability would be a major boost for the Lyon boss.

Lyon’s experience is unmatched

Jean-Michel Aulas, Wendie Renard
Lyon captain Wendie Renard after the D1 Arkema Final against Paris Saint-Germain / Eurasia Sport Images/GettyImages

As eight-time winners of the competition, most recently in 2022, it's fair to say Lyon know exactly what it takes to get over the line in games of such a high magnitude. Wendie Renard, in particular, was part of the team that won the club's first Champions League trophy in 2011, and she even scored in that final against German side Turbine Potsdam.

The 33-year-old central defender has been integral to Lyon's success for more than a decade and is one of the key figures behind their winning mentality.

Lyon's experience was on full display in the semi-finals of the competition when they faced domestic rivals Paris Saint-Germain. Bompastor's side were 2-0 down after 50 minutes in the first leg at home, yet three goals in six minutes from her side turned the tie on its head.

Lyon led 3-2 heading into the reverse fixture at the Parc de Princes and they secured a comfortable 2-1 win to reach another Champions League final. The know-how her team possess is something the manager knows is irreplaceable.

"When you've got several European campaigns and finals under your belt, it obviously helps you approach these fixtures with confidence and a level head," Bompastor told UEFA TV this week.

"You also know what challenges you're going to face, because a final is never an easy game. You're obviously coming up against a formidable opponent. As a result, you need to dig deep to be able to get this title. It's the best competition you can play as a club player."

Barcelona have learnt from past mistakes

Aleksander Ceferin, Theodore Theodoridis, Nadine Kessler, Alexia Putellas, Claudia Pina, Ana-Maria Crnogorcevic
Barcelona players collect their runners up medals after the 2022 final against Lyon / Jonathan Moscrop/GettyImages

This isn't the first time these two teams have met at this stage of the competition, having contested finals in both 2019 and 2022 - Lyon emerged victorious on both occasions. Twice, the Barcelona players have watched their European rivals lift the trophy, while they had runners-up medals strung around their necks, and they will be determined not to let it happen a third time.

The Catalan giants are the current holders of the competition after they overcame Wolfsburg in last season's showpiece in Eindhoven. They also hammere Emma Hayes' Chelsea in 2021 to win their first ever Champions League title.

However, Lyon remain the obstacle they are yet to overcome. In 2019 and 2022, the downfall may have been the result of overconfidence due to domestic success, a lack of experience in the face of adversity, or not being able to match their opponents' physicality - it was possibly a mix of all three.

This year, Barcelona look better equipped to deal with whatever Lyon throw at them. Their own semi-final comeback against Chelsea over two legs attests to that, as does their comeback in last season's final to beat Wolfsburg.

"We have the confidence of being a more experienced team," Giraldez also told UEFA TV. "We're a team that has been growing a lot, not only in domestic competitions, international competitions, but also with the national team, of course; the players have more experience. 

"It will be an evenly contested final and the fans there will enjoy it because it's going to be a great game."

Kenza Dali and Vicky Losada will be attending the House of WePlayStrong event in Bilbao on the morning of the UEFA Women's Champions League final. UEFA's WePlayStrong campaign is dedicated to celebrating and advancing women's football across Europe. The House of WePlayStrong will include variety of activities, speakers, and interactive experiences throughout the day.