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Women’s Champions League: Barca eyes historic game at Camp Nou vs Madrid


Ballon d’Or winner Alexia Putellas and the rest of her Barcelona teammates have one date circled on the calendar. On March 30 they will play in front of fans at Camp Nou for the first time.

And against Real Madrid in the Champions League, to top it off.

First, Barcelona will look to deal a blow to Madrid in its opening-leg quarterfinal in the Spanish capital on Tuesday. Then it will be time to finally feel the roar of Europe’s biggest soccer stadium in the return leg.

“I have dreamt of it since I was little. The other day I went to Camp Nou, obviously to see a match, but I also started to imagine what it will be like,” Putellas told The Associated Press in a recent interview.

“I believe that this comes at just the right moment. We have been building toward this for many years and with what we have achieved, it was only a question of time. And it will also be a question of time before it becomes normal.”



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Barcelona is on course to defend its first European Cup that it conquered last season after thumping Chelsea 4-0 in the Champions League final. Putellas’ goals and leadership that also helped her team sweep up the Spanish league and Copa de la Reina titles earned her the Ballon d’Or and several other individual awards for the best women’s player.

Barcelona’s women play their matches at the much smaller Johan Cruyff Stadium. While Camp Nou can hold 99,000 people and is located in Barcelona, Johan Cruyff Stadium can sit just 6,000 people who make the trek to the club’s sprawling training academy outside the city.

After years of slowly building support for the club to open Camp Nou for its women’s team, Putellas and her teammates did get the chance to play there in January 2021. But at that time Spain had in place health restrictions because of the pandemic that included allowing no fans into soccer stadiums. So there was no one to cheer as Putellas scored the first goal by a Barcelona’s women’s player at Camp Nou to spark a 5-0 rout of crosstown rival Espanyol.

Now, Putellas asks their supporters to relish the moment.



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“I only ask our fans to help us, to enjoy the match with us, to hang in there when things get tough, and in the end for our fans to be an extension of the team,” the Spain midfielder said. “Our goal to is to advance to the semifinals and then on to the final so that we can experience again what we experienced at Gothenberg, but with our fans, with our people, and to lift up the cup.”

In January, Barcelona quickly allocated 70,000 tickets for the “clásico.” Club members could reserve up to four free tickets. Tickets for non-club members started at nine euros ($10). On Thursday it put on sale 6,000 more seats.

Barcelona has had a professional women’s team since 2002. But it took a decade for the team, finally backed with serious, sustained investment, to become the best team, first in Spain, and then on the continent.

Despite being partnered with the most successful men’s club in the history of soccer, Real Madrid’s women’s team is still a work in progress. Madrid acquired a women’s team in 2019 and rebranded its as Real Madrid femenino a year later.

Madrid beat Manchester City to reach this stage, but the gap between the champion and upstart was laid clear last weekend, when Barcelona drummed Madrid 5-0 in a victory that clinched it a third consecutive league title. It now wants to repeat its treble from last season and maintain Barcelona’s winning tradition that its men’s team has failed to uphold.



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Here is a look at the other matchups in the final eight:

BAYERN MUNICH vs. PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN

Both teams are still looking for their first Champions League title. PSG has twice been runner-up, most recently in 2017. The defending French league champions charged through the group stage with six wins, 25 goals scored and none conceded. Bayern’s best showing has been the semifinals. The German club beat seven-time champion Lyon in the group stage thanks to a header from Saki Kumagai — a former Lyon player — and the goalkeeping of Laura Benkarth. The play in Munich on Tuesday.

JUVENTUS vs. LYON

This one has the makings of a classic mismatch with seven-time champion Lyon hungry to regain its crown, but don’t overlook upstart Juventus. The Italian team surprised everyone by advancing out of the group stage — leaving Chelsea behind in the process. It’s never been this far in the competition. Lyon will pose a tough challenge though, especially with striker Ada Hegerberg healthy and in scoring form. The Norwegian missed close to two years after ACL surgery and another operation to fix a stress fracture, though she’s still the all-time top scorer in the competition. They play in Turin on Wednesday.

ARSENAL vs. WOLFSBURG

A matchup of former European champions, both with scoring punch. Vivianne Miedema is Arsenal’s top scorer with the Netherlands forward having better than a goal-per-game average in her Champions League career. The north London club was the 2007 champion. Wolfsburg forward Tabea Wassmuth lead the group stage with eight goals. The German club won the competition in 2013 and 2014. They play in London on Wednesday.



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