When the Spanish league was interrupted by the coronavirus crisis in mid-March, Barcelona were having their best ever season. The team had won 19 out of 21 matches, as well as the Supercopa and had qualified for the Copa de la Reina semi-finals and WCL quarter-finals. Once the season was officially cancelled, Barcelona were awarded the league title, their first since 2015.
So what made Barcelona finally click this year? Well, the coach Lluís Cortés has managed to unify the team, creating a cohesion that had been missing in previous years. This version of Barcelona still likes to control the game and to keep possession, but its dominance comes from the group’s togetherness and hard work. Under Cortés, the team has kept their signature 4-3-3 formation but has added an extra layer of freedom to allow players to express themselves.
This summer, the club has focused on maintaining the current group of players that had achieved such great results during the season. “The team is in very good shape, physically, technically and tactically. It’s an advantage that we’ve kept the core of the team and we are very prepared to work hard and give it our all during the pre-season so that in a month we’ll be in the best possible condition,” Cortés said before pre-season started last month.
Barcelona’s main concern right now is whether Marta Torrejón, the team’s first choice at right-back, and Ana Maria Crnogorcevic, her natural substitute, will have recovered from the injuries they sustained during pre-season come Friday’s all-Spanish showdown with Atlético Madrid. If not, Barcelona B player Jana Fernández, 18, will be asked to step in to what would be her European debut.
Which players have they signed this summer and can use from the quarter-finals?
There has not been a huge upheaval at Barcelona this summer, which perhaps is not that surprising considering their successful 2019-20 season. The club has focused on maintaining the squad by extending contracts as well as giving promising Barcelona B players Jana Fernández and Bruna Vilamala their first professional deals.
The main new face this summer is Giovana Queiroz, a 17-year-old Brazilian attacker from Madrid CFF with impressive speed and technical abilities. Barcelona also have the goalkeeper Cata Coll available after a loan spell with Sevilla last year.
Lluís Cortés had a wealth of experience in women’s football before joining Barcelona. He became the team’s head coach in 2019, following the departure of Fran Sánchez, and has since won 46 out of the 53 games the team has played. Cortés’s main focus is to get the best out of every player so they can fit into the overall tactical plan, a code he has finally cracked this season and hopes to maintain throughout next season. “From the first day, the goal has been to maintain the core that has worked so hard for us. It’s an incredible group of people,” Cortés said during the pre-season.
Jenni Hermoso is the league’s top scorer with 23 goals and the standout player. Usually a false nine or attacking midfielder, Hermoso plays her best when given the freedom to rove around and create chances in between oppposition lines. She won her first title with Rayo Vallecano, and played at Tyresö FC in Sweden for a year before signing with Barcelona in 2013. She left Catalonia in 2017, but returned in 2019, after two one-year spells at PSG and Atlético Madrid.
Did you know?
Spanish defender Mapi León is well known for her many tattoos but she’s also a talented artist. She has designed many of her own tattoos and is often asked to design for others too. Mapi loves drawing and has plans to turn her passion for tattoos into a career as a tattoo artist when she retires.
Which player could surprise everyone in Spain?
A few months ago, Jana Fernández making her debut in the Champions League this summer seemed unlikely, but recent injuries to Marta Torrejón and Ana Maria Crnogorcevic’s could force Cortés to look at the B team to find a replacement at right-back. Fernández is a World Cup winner with Spain’s Under-17 team has come through the Barcelona youth system. If Torrejón and Crnogorcevic are not available against Atlético on Friday, all eyes will be on her.
What is the realistic aim for Barcelona in the WCL?
The team may be better prepared than ever, but Barcelona’s lack of changes in personnel this summer can be a weakness as well as a strength. On Friday, they’ll face a revamped Atlético team that know Barcelona well, but who have been forced to cancel training because of five positive Covid-19 tests. If they win, the matchup against an experienced Wolfsburg side will be a real test for the Blaugranas, but one that they are better prepared for this year. With some luck, Barcelona should aim to repeat last year’s feat and make it to the final.
Barcelona have been taking part in the WCL since its debut in 2012-13, qualifying for the quarter-finals for the fifth consecutive year. Their best result came last year when they made it to the final after beating Bayern Munich in the semis. They lost the final 4-1 to Lyon.