Ballon d’Or winner Alexia Putellas has been named in Barcelona‘s squad for the Champions League semifinal second leg against Chelsea after almost 10 months out injured, but Lucy Bronze has been ruled out with a knee problem.

Putellas has not played since tearing her ACL while with Spain preparing for last summer’s European Championships in July but is in line to make her long-awaited return to action at Spotify Camp Nou on Thursday.

Stream on ESPN+: LaLiga, Bundesliga, more (U.S.)

Bronze, meanwhile, will sit out the game after sustaining an injury in the 1-0 first leg win at Stamford Bridge last weekend. The England international underwent keyhole surgery on her right knee this week and will be out for a few weeks.

Caroline Graham Hansen’s goal gave Barca a slender lead going into the second leg, with the build up to the game focusing on Putellas’ possible return to action.

Barca goalkeeper Sandra Panos said it is “magic” to have the midfielder back in training but stressed the importance not to put too much pressure on her as she comes back from a long layoff.

“I am delighted for her,” Panos said. “The most important thing is that she feels good. I am so happy, though, because training with her every day is magic.

“But I don’t think it’s good for her that we put any pressure on her. We must remember the severity of the injury she had and putting more pressure on a player is not the right thing to do.”

Barca beat Chelsea 4-0 when the sides met in the 2021 final — the only European final Barca have won to date — and have a 1-0 lead going into the second leg in this year’s tournament.

However, after watching Chelsea come from behind to knock out holders Lyon in the quarterfinal, Barca midfielder Patri Guijarro warned against taking that advantage for granted.

“Chelsea are a team that in two minutes can score two goals and with two passes can have the ball in the back of the net,” Guijarro said.

“We have spoken about the level of concentration needed. Chelsea can seem like they’re not there, floating almost, then all of a sudden, two passes and they are in the game.”

Guijarro’s role in the team has changed this season due to the absence of Putellas, with coach Jonatan Giraldez pushing her into a more advanced position. England international Keira Walsh has slotted in at the base of the midfield.

“It was not a comfortable change [because] even though it’s still in midfield, it is a completely different position,” Guijarro said.

“At first, I watched a lot of videos of Alexia because of the movement she has. That helped me, although I drop back much more and she is much more attacking. I have felt good in the role since Christmas.”

Guijarro also praised the way Walsh, who became the highest value signing in the women’s game last summer at around €400,000, has come in to the side.

“Keira is a player that makes things easy,” she added. “She came at the end of the summer so missed all of preseason. On top of that, it’s not easy to adapt to Barca, the style of play we have, tactically we do a lot of work.

“But she has been able to adapt quickly because of her capacity to understand football. She understands the game like us. I always say she is the best pivot in the world because she makes everything easy. Playing with her makes you a better footballer.”

Barca — who can also win Liga F for a fourth successive season on Sunday if they beat Huelva — are bidding to reach a fourth Champions League final in five years, while Chelsea are seeking just their second ever appearance in a final.

Over 65,000 tickets have already been sold for Thursday’s game at Camp Nou, with the winners meeting Arsenal or Wolfsburg in Eindhoven on June 3.

Source link

Putellas to return in UWCL vs. Chelsea; Bronze ruled out