Before the abrupt end to footballing activities in Spain and the rest of the world due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Barcelona Femeni who were sitting comfortably at the top of the Liga Iberdrola, nine points clear of defending champions, Atletico Madrid Femenino.
Barcelona were having what seemed to be their best season ever – scoring 86 goals in 21 games and conceding just 6, as well as winning 19 of their 21 league games, the other two ending in a goalless and 1-all draws. They got presented the league title after it became obvious restarting the season was off the cards, their first championship title since 2015.
Asisat Oshoala, who accounted for 20 of those goals was one of the players who despite receiving a winners medal while on a compulsory lockdown, was now forced to spend the rest of the footballing season without playing a match anymore. This included missing out on the chance to continue a push for a first UEFA Women’s Champions League glory.
The glamourous competition, luckily, did not experience the same fate as the league, with the players getting a second chance after UEFA in June 2020 announced that the final stages of the competition (the quarter-finals, semi-finals and final), although reformated into a single-leg game due to the pandemic, would be played from 21 to 30 August 2020 in Bilbao and San Sebastián, Spain.
Before the unwanted pause, the 25-year-old Nigerian who proved herself as an instrumental part of the side since she joined them in January 2019 on loan from Chinese club, Dalian Quanjian, had given fellow teammate Jenni Hermoso a torrid chase for the top scorer honours. Hermoso however, finished with 3 goals more.
With footballing activities now restarting for the womenfolk, the question for Oshoala and her Barcelona teammates, however, remains if they can continue with the imperious form that saw them advance to the semi-finals of the terminated Copa de la Reina de Futbol, easily grab the league title, win the Supercopa de España Femenina after running a 10-1 riot over Real Sociedad, and also progress to the quarter-finals of the Champions League after seeing off Juventus and FC Minsk, 4-1 on aggregate in the last 32, and 8-1 on aggregate in the last 16 respectively. Or, if the negative effects of the pandemic would simply get the better of their exciting football, and possibly, leave them short of more glory.
A star-studded team by Cortes
Following his ability to create cohesion among the players which had been missing from Barcelona in previous years, Lluis Cortes named a traveling side he hopes would keep their signature 4-3-3 formation with a pressing attitude.
This includes the likes of Alexia Putellas who has boasted of 15 goals across all competitions this season and Norwegian star, Caroline Graham Hansen who remains one of the few to have scored a hattrick for the Spanish champions. Another lethal weapon could be 18-year-old Women U-17 World Cup winner, Jana Fernandez who might get a shot at the big stage if Marta Torrejon who has so far, scored 10 goals in all competitions while playing from the right-back position is unable to be fit in time for the first return game.
Undoubtedly, his big weapons would be the four-time African Women footballer of the year, Oshoala and her Spanish goalscoring counterpart, Hermoso, both of whom boast of 26 and 25 goals respectively in all competitions for Barcelona this season – 43.9 percent of their team’s goals, placing them among some of the most lethal strikers in Europe in 2019-20.
Familiar foes Atletico awaits
Oshoala who has scored at least a goal three of the four times she featured for Barcelona against Atletico Madrid Femenina since joining in 2019 (the odd one out being the goalless draw in the league in February 2020), would be the Spanish champions’ biggest asset when they come up against each other in the quarter finals of the Champions League in Bilbao.
Oshoala, alongside Hermoso also scored in the second leg of Barcelona’s round of 16 game against Minsk before COVID-19 struck. More reason for Atletico’s defence who have conceded at least a goal in all of their Champions League games to be worried.
Glasgow City or VFL Wolfsburg?
For a spot in the final on the 30th of August, Barcelona, should they succeed in defeating rivals Atletico, would have dug deep to get past the winner of the game between 14-time Scottish champions, Glasgow City, and 2012-2013 & 2013-2014 Women Champions League winners, Wolfsburg who have Pernille Harder and Alexandra Popp on their ranks.
Final Stop to Glory: Arsenal Women, PSG Feminine, Bayern Munich, Lyon Feminine
While Barcelona might not be able to meet either of these teams until the finals, they have formidable sides who await to injure their imperious run if they eventually clash at the Anoeta Stadium in San Sebastian, Spain to be crowned as the queens of Europe.
Most familiar to Lluis Cortes’ side and possibly most ruthless of the quadruple would be Lyon who asides being defending Champions, are record winners of the Women’s Champions League (6 times), record champions of the French first division (14 times) and we’re responsible for preventing Barcelona from lifting their first Champions League title after subjecting them to a humiliating 4-1 defeat last season, Oshoala scoring Barcelona’s solitary goal.
Their French counterparts, PSG although not as illustrious as Lyon in the competition – only managing to get to the finals twice but losing on both occasions, could prove another hard nut to crack for unstoppable Barcelona should they meet in the final. PSG themselves would be to relying on the experience of 42-year-old Brazilian, Formiga.
Barcelona would most certainly be pleased if their opponent for the final should be Bayern Munich as they had knocked them out of the competition last season following a 1-0 win in either leg of the semi finals – Kheira Hamraoui scoring the only goal on one of the two occasions. Bayern however, might have to think of themselves first as they stand to face Lyon in the semi finals if they defeat Arsenal.
Arsenal in the final would mean reunion party for Oshoala who played for them between 2016-2017. Oshoala has also proved she can score against the 3-time English champions after she grabbed a brace when Barcelona won 5-2 in a friendly they played a year ago. If they would get a chance for a face off in the finals remains an if, but high-flying Barcelona as well as Oshoala would definitely fancy such opportunity.
Jidechi Chidiezie (@Jidechi_ on Twitter) is a football writer and analyst based in Lagos, Nigeria.