Barcelona is the firm favorite to lift the UEFA Women's Champions League trophy against Wolfsburg on Saturday in Eindhoven but cannot afford to underestimate the dangerous German team.
Wolfsburg has won the competition twice, in 2013 and 2014, and also finished as runner-up in 2016, 2018 and 2020 –- making its sixth final in little over a decade.
With record eight-time winner Lyon dumped out by Chelsea on penalties in the quarterfinals, both clubs view this as a prime opportunity to capitalize.
It is the first final to sell out since 2010, with more than 34,000 tickets sold at the PSV Stadium, guaranteeing a new record crowd for a women's soccer match in the Netherlands.
Wolfsburg was the only side to beat Barcelona last season in the competition before Lyon in the final, although the Catalans progressed on aggregate.
Tommy Stroot's team, pipped by Bayern Munich to the title in the German league, saw off Arsenal in a semifinal thriller at the Emirates to book the ticket to the Netherlands.
The 2021 champions are confident of victory, but Wolfsburg possesses dangerous forwards in Sveindis Jonsdottir and Ewa Pajor, as well as key player Alexandra Popp.
Barcelona's own brightest star, Alexia Putellas, is unlikely to start the game after missing virtually the whole season because of a knee injury.
The two-time Ballon d'Or winner netted her first goal this season as a substitute in the Spanish champions' final league match and could make an impact from the bench.
Winger Caroline Graham Hansen and midfielder Aitana Bonmati are Barcelona's most dangerous creators, with Wolfsburg likely to soak up pressure and try to sting Jonatan Giraldez's team on the counter-attack.
Barcelona beat Chelsea in the final two seasons ago with an early blitz, all four goals in the 4-0 win coming inside 36 minutes.
last season Barca was stunned by Lyon in similar fashion, falling to a 3-1 defeat after the French team took a three-goal lead within 33 minutes.
"(Lyon's opener) was a great strike, you have to admit it, but if you start like that… the first half was really hard for us -- they came out pumped up," Barcelona winger Ana-Maria Crnogorcevic warned this week. "German teams believe until the last minute, quite often they score a last-gasp goal and many times that's how they win –- they are very difficult teams to play against."
Reasons to believe. Barcelona fans, who set two world records for attendance last season at Camp Nou, including against Wolfsburg, traveled in droves to last year's final and a vibrant atmosphere is expected for the sellout clash.
However with the Netherlands bordering Germany, Popp is hopeful more even levels of support could help her team.
"I think you can control Barcelona in one game better than knowing you have two games," said Popp. "You can play Barcelona on neutral turf, with perhaps more neutral spectators, (which is) better than at Camp Nou, where so many people can squeeze in. That will have an influence on us."
Barcelona thrashed Wolfsburg 5-1 at Camp Nou last season in the semifinal first leg, but the German club earned a 2-0 home win in the second.
"You also see that in most of the return legs, it isn't quite the same and they're not so extremely superior and because of that, I see our chance," added Popp.
Barcelona players know their opponents well, with Graham Hansen, who netted in both semifinals games against Chelsea, Fridolina Rolfo and Ingrid Engen playing for Wolfsburg before moving to Spain.
Engen, who started Wolfsburg's 2020 final defeat by Lyon as well as the Catalans' own loss last year, hopes it's third time lucky for her.
"I remember thinking after both finals I am sure I will lift this trophy, it has made the dream even bigger," Engen told international media in an interview. "I haven't been talking to (my former teammates) before this game, you don't want to do that when it's getting closer… but it's going to be special to meet them."
© Agence France-Presse