Thursday, May 26, 2022

Barcelona vs. Real Madrid: At Camp Nou, women’s sides will write next chapter in Spain’s biggest rivalry

FC Barcelona and Real Madrid will face off in a historic second leg of the UEFA Women’s Champions League quarterfinal on Wednesday, treating soccer fans to another clash of the two iconic clubs. The second leg will be hosted at Camp Nou, as thousands of people are set to fill the stands for a UWCL version of El Clasico. 

The franchise announced a complete sell out of the match within a day after tickets to the second leg against archrivals Real Madrid went on sale. This isn’t the first time Barcelona has played at Camp Nou, the team previously played a regular season match in 2021 against RCD Espanyol, but that event was commemorated without fans. 

This time the stakes are higher and the fans will provide the soundtrack for the players. The added pressure of performing well in front of thousands is something that Barcelona players are embracing. As Norwegian international and Barca midfielder Ingrid Engen put it, “I think we always put [pressure] on ourselves and that’s what’s great in this team. We always want to play well and it doesn’t matter the occasion, but of course now it’s a different atmosphere.”

“I think it’s all about enjoying it,” she said. “Finding the confidence — and that we already have, I feel — but we are super ready and I think for this game, you don’t need any extra motivational things. It’s motivation enough to have sold out the whole stadium and play in front of our fans.”

Swedish international and Barca forward Fridolina Rolfo agreed with the sentiment, but also said a local rivalry also means the potential for different sectors of support during such a high level event.  “Of course you have the pressure from outside, but I think it’s a positive thing having fans there that support us. So I hope the environment and everything will be good when we are there. But, of course there will be the opponents fans [that] will have fans that support them as well. But I just hope we can enjoy the game.”

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Real Madrid had a promising start to the first leg of the quarterfinal before FC Barcelona summoned a second half surge to defeat the Madristas 3-1. The Catalonian side was held scoreless for nearly an hour before VAR confirmed a penalty for the Blaugrana, which Alexia Putellas converted for the equalizer before adding another in late game stoppage time. 

“We obviously were not happy with how we started the game but we got a good result and then showed that it doesn’t matter if the other team has a good day,” said Engen. “We are super hard to beat. We score goals. So now it’s doing maybe small changes, but not in how we’re going to play.”

A slow start to a high profile game from the reigning Champions League winners is a performance Barcelona are not eager to forget. Rolfo believes Barcelona’s first leg was a match full of lessons that the team must remember as they prepare to play in the second leg.

“That first half, we have to take it with us to the second game now. Because we know on which level we can play when we are at our best level,” said Rolfo.

We weren’t happy with our first half in the game against Real Madrid and that’s something we’ve been discussing. We know that we can make it better but I think we really showed in the second half that we were not happy and we wanted to show them how good we were. I think we really showed a good mentality and I think that’s something we can learn [from] as well.”

Whatever the result, and Barcelona remain heavy favorites to win, the hope is that this is just the beginning of this rivalry being featured on the biggest stage. A Clasico at Camp Nou is the kind of event everybody can get excited about. And the sellout clearly shows that when it comes to Barcelona against Real Madrid, whether it’s the men or the women on the field, nobody can get enough.

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