UWCL time capsule: How Barcelona and Chelsea have fared over the years

Irene Paredes of FC Barcelona refuses the ball during the UEFA Women's Champions League semifinal
Irene Paredes of FC Barcelona refuses the ball during the UEFA Women's Champions League semifinal (Photo by Eric Alonso/Getty Images)

With the semi-finals of the 2023/24 UEFA Women’s Champions League coming this weekend, a replay of last year’s semi-final is brewing.

After Barcelona’s 5-2 victory against Brann, and Chelsea’s 4-1 win over Ajax, these two top class teams will be heading into the semi-finals of the Champions League once again.

Both teams are gearing up for the tough games ahead. So, as they prepare to fight for a place in the final, let’s take a look at their time in the Champions League throughout the years.

Overall, Chelsea and Barcelona have gone head-to-head against each other in the UWCL three times. Barcelona have claimed victory twice, while the third match ended in a draw. With Chelsea failing to have won a match against the Spanish side in the past, will this be the year that changes?

In the seven seasons that Emma Hayes has led her team into the Champions League, the Blues have yet to take home the trophy. The European title is the only silverware Chelsea Women are yet to win. However, since their first appearance in the UWCL in the 2015/16 season, the Blues have never backed down. They have appeared in this competition every season since.

Chelsea’s time in the UWCL so far 

2010s

In their first season, they were knocked out of the 2015/16 tournament in the round of 16. The London side were beat 4-1 by Wolfsburg, who went on to be runners-up that year. History repeated itself in the following season, with Chelsea falling 4-1 to Wolfsburg again in the round of 32. Although they may have got knocked back in the 2016/17 campaign, the Blues went further than ever in 2017/18.

A brilliant run saw them advance to their first Champions League semi-finals. However, Chelsea were denied a place in the final by a very familiar team of doom, Wolfsburg.

In the 2018/19 campaign, after hard work and a 3-2 win against Paris Saint-Germain, Chelsea earned their spot in their second consecutive semi-final. Despite the team’s greatest efforts though , the hopes of reaching their first ever UWCL final were crushed. The Blues ran into a team that had won the title in the previous three years, Olympique Lyonnais.

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2020s

Although Chelsea may not have brought a European trophy home in 2020/21, they did make history. The side reached the Champions League final for the first time. Chelsea and Barcelona met for the first time in the UWCL, and Barca marked their territory with a clean 4-0 win against the Blues. 

The match started off showing that maybe it just wasn’t meant to be for the Women’s Super League team. An own goal from Melanie Leupolz in just the first minute set the tone for the match. Barcelona added three more in the first half and cruised to victory.

Climbing back up

The 2021/22 competition was a season to forget for the Blues. For the first time ever, Chelsea failed to advance beyond the group stages. They showed their seriousness in the next competition, going undefeated in their first nine matches. After their fantastic run placed them in the semi-finals once again, Chelsea came up the previous year’s UWCL runners-up, and this year’s enemy, Barcelona.

The first leg of the semi-final led to Chelsea’s first loss in the competition that year. A rocket strike from Caroline Graham Hansen put Barca ahead in just the fourth minute. After that electric start, Chelsea failed to get back into the game and La Blaugrana held on for the 1-0 win. In the return leg, Graham Hansen once again connected for Barcelona. Her strike was answered but four minutes later by the Blues’ Guro Reiten. Chelsea could not come up with the necessary second goal, and their UWCL dreams ended once more.

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Barcelona’s time in the UWCL so far  

2010s

Barcelona have had extra years of experience within the UWCL, with the La Blaugrana making their first appearance in 2012/2013. However, this was the shortest run in their history with only two matches played against Arsenal. The Gunners destroyed Barca on a 7-0 aggregate in the round of 32. 

In the 2013/14 season, a 6-1 thrashing of Zurich meant that Barcelona would be entering their first UWCL quarter-finals. However, Wolfsburg easily sent them home with a 5-0 defeat. The following season, an 83rd minute penalty from Bristol City denied Barcelona a spot in the last eight of the UWCL. 

The Rise of the Spanish Side

From there on, Barcelona’s runs in the UWCL have only gotten better. The side has reached at least the quarter-finals every season since. In the 2015/16 campaign, Barcelona stood steady in front of a club record crowd of 8,369 at the Mini Estadi. Going up against PSG, the runners-up from the previous season, Barcelona fought to a tough draw. The second leg started off calm, but a second half storm from PSG saw them dominate the attacking field. A late goal from Cristiane in the 86th minute made it the end of Barca’s journey in the UWCL that year.

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Barcelona landed a spot in their first UWCL semi-finals the next season with wins in their first six games. After the semi-final draw, Barcelona were faced with the French side that had knocked them out the previous year. PSG again dominated the Spanish side in both legs with an aggregate total of 5-1.

Barcelona saw themselves fall in the quarter-finals of the 2017/18 season, the last time they would not advance to at least the semis. La Blaugrana made history the next year as they made the final for the club’s first time. Going up against a Lyon side fighting for their fourth straight title of this competition, Barcelona knew it was not going to be easy. However, no one expected the Spanish side to be 4-0 down just 30 minutes into the game. Asisat Oshoala scored a brilliant goal in the 89th minute for Barca, but it came too late with the whistle blowing just moments after.

2020s

After a missed season of this competition due to the global pandemic of Covid-19, Barca threw themselves right back into it during the 2020/21 campaign. A smooth sailing journey led them again to the finals. With just one loss throughout the competition, Barcelona found themselves up against Chelsea, experiencing their first UWCL final. 

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History repeated itself, but this time in favour of Barcelona. Just as Barca had found themselves 3-0 down 30 minutes into their debut final, this time, so did the Blues. An own goal in the first minute started the electric spark for the La Blaugrana as they scored three more goals before the half time whistle. Firmly in the driver’s seat, the Spanish side stormed through the second half. Barcelona denied Chelsea of any chances right up to the final whistle. For the first time in history, Barcelona were declared as champions of the UEFA’s Women’s Champions League.

The 2021/22 season didn’t just cause heartbreak for the Blues, as Barca fell short of defending their title. Rolling through the competition, Barcelona were thoroughly handled by regular champions Lyon in the finals. However, this heartbreak only made them stronger for the following year. One of the most entertaining finals ever saw Barca go down 2-0 before the half-time whistle.

The Spanish side came out of the locker room on fire, leveling up the match behind a brace from Patri Guijarro. Fridolina Rolfo’s 70th minute goal pushed Barca over the finish line to receive their second Champions League title in just three years.

This season’s outlook

With both teams having quite a journey in the UWCL over the years, it’s clear to see that the sides will be putting their best feet forward. However, this is far more easily said than done. Fortunately for Barca, Mapi Leon is rumoured to make her return after suffering a rupture of the outer meniscus. Other than the star defender, the squad are all looking fit and ready.

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On the other side, there is little news on a long list of injured players from Chelsea. Two strong players, Sam Kerr and Mia Fishel are indefinitely ruled out due to ACL injuries. Many of the Blue’s fans are anxiously waiting on updates for other key players such as defensive pillar Millie Bright, Nathalie Bjorn and Maren Mjelde. As of right now, it is unclear if they will be returning to the pitch for one of their biggest games this season.

Therefore, as many are counting down the hours until two of Europe’s top teams meet once again, the big question remains: Will Barcelona earn another spot in the UWCL finals or will Chelsea break through and beat the Spanish side for the first time in their history?

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