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Barcelona Femení's invincibility questioned: Can they overcome Chelsea to make it to the final?

Unnati Naidu
Barcelona Femení's invincibility questioned: Can they overcome Chelsea to make it to the final?Unnati Naidu/DAZN
Will Barcelona turn the game around at Stamford Bridge against Chelsea?

Above sprawling Barcelona, a surprising turn of events unfolded last Saturday at the Estadi Olimpic Lluis Companys.  

For the first time since February 2019, Barcelona Femení experienced the bitter, and shocking, taste of defeat on home soil, falling 1-0 to Chelsea in the first leg of their UEFA Women's Champions League semi-final.  

This defeat marked a rare moment of vulnerability for a team accustomed to total unassailability. The loss will smart even more as it was the team’s first match at the venue while their usual haunt, the Estadi Johan Cruyff, was too small for a match of such significance and the club fortress, Camp Nou, remains unavailable due to renovations. 

Barcelona's women have enjoyed an era of unrivalled success, boasting a streak of invincibility at home that stretches back over five years.  

The team had not lost a home game since their defeat to Sporting Huelva in February 2019 and had not failed to score at home since March 2018 against Lyon. Even more significantly, Chelsea are the face team to keep a clean sheet at Barcelona in over eight years. 

These records underscore the magnitude of Chelsea's achievement and the challenge now facing Barcelona: to muster the mental fortitude required to overturn this deficit in the return leg at Stamford Bridge.   

Chelsea's manager, Emma Hayes, demonstrated her famed tactical astuteness by effectively neutralizing Barcelona's key players, Salma Paralluelo and Mariona Caldentey, with a robust defensive strategy that left the Catalan giants stifled.  

This approach marked a significant tactical victory for Hayes, who has now successfully defeated each team she has faced in the UEFA Women’s Champions League over her eight-year tenure at Chelsea, with Barcelona previously the only bogey team.   

The reaction from Barcelona's camp has been one of resolve and introspection. The team's star midfielder, Aitana Bonmati, recently voiced concerns over the lack of competition in Spain's Liga F compared to the challenges presented by England's Women’s Super League. The match against Chelsea exemplified her point, exposing the need for Barcelona to adapt and evolve to remain competitive on the European stage. 

Barcelona's coaching staff has till now proved proactive in addressing these challenges by fostering a mentally resilient team capable of handling high-pressure situations - achieved through rigorous training regimens designed to simulate intense match conditions, helping the players sharpen their tactical acumen and psychological resilience.  

Their never-say-die resolve was evident last season when Barcelona overcame a two-goal deficit to defeat Wolfsburg in the Champions League final. 

Despite their recent setback, Barcelona remains a formidable force in women's football, boasting one of the most talented rosters in Europe. However, the second leg against Chelsea poses a new kind of test, one that will require not just skill but strategic cunning and mental toughness. The focus will be less on individual brilliance and more on collective effort and adaptability.   

Barcelona's resilience will be crucial in London, where they must break down Chelsea's defensive solidity and tactical discipline. The Catalan side will need to be mindful of Chelsea's counter-attacking threat, which they failed to neutralize in the first leg. Bonmati's criticism of Chelsea's "dirty" tactics, referring to their time-wasting strategies, highlights the psychological warfare often present in high-stakes matches. It will be imperative for Barcelona to maintain composure and adapt to the flow of the game, potentially adopting some of their opponent's strategies to secure a victory. 

The mood in the Barcelona camp and among its fans after the match was one of determination, embodied by the chants of "Si, se puede" ("Yes, we can"). This sentiment will need to be more than just a rallying cry; it must translate into a clear and effective strategy on the pitch.  

As the second leg approaches, Barcelona stands at a crossroads. Will they leverage their historic strengths and recent lessons to stage a comeback, or will Chelsea's tactical prowess prove too formidable once again? This upcoming match isn't just a test of skill but a profound challenge to Barcelona's mental and tactical flexibility, qualities that will define their path forward in European football. 

Can Barcelona tackle their toughest test this season, or will Chelsea defeat the European Champions? Watch the exciting second leg of the UEFA Women's Champions League semi-final between Chelsea FC and FC Barcelona. It's live from Stamford Bridge and free only on DAZN.