Women’s Champions League: Barcelona’s Aitana Bonmati says Chelsea ‘can compete for everything’

Aitana Bonmati celebrates scoring against Brann
Bonmati was named Ballon d’Or winner, Fifa Best Player of the Year and Uefa Best Player of the Year in 2023
Venue: Estadi Olimpic Lluis Companys Date: Saturday, 20 April Kick-off: 12:30 BST
Coverage: Commentary on BBC Radio 5 Live; live text on BBC Sport website & app

Barcelona midfielder Aitana Bonmati says Chelsea have “a big squad that can compete for everything” as they prepare to meet in the Women’s Champions League semi-finals again on Saturday.

Bonmati, the current Ballon d’Or holder, was named player of the match last season as Barcelona beat Chelsea en route to winning the title.

The two teams also met in the 2021 final, with Barcelona winning 4-0.

“Always when we play Chelsea, it’s a tough game,” Bonmati told BBC Sport.

“I always say I am a football player because of these games. It is the type of game that makes you want to play football. It makes you enjoy it.

“I would like to have this kind of game every week. We know we don’t have these types of games usually. It’s exciting.”

Barcelona are giants in the Women’s Champions League having reached the final in four of the past five seasons, winning two titles, while Chelsea have never won it.

In Blues manager Emma Hayes’ final season before leaving to lead the USA national team, they have already been knocked out of the Women’s FA Cup and lost the Women’s League Cup final to rivals Arsenal.

They currently top the Women’s Super League on goal difference above Manchester City, but could be missing several key players through injury in Barcelona, including striker Sam Kerr and captain Millie Bright.

“I know they have injuries but I also know they have a big squad and made some signings in the last window. For me, it is not an excuse that they don’t have the best players,” added Bonmati.

“They have a lot of good players and they have the potential to sign great players also. They signed Mayra Ramirez, for example. Maybe they miss some players but they have a big, big squad that can compete for everything.”

‘It is English football that we call it’

Bonmati says Barcelona have “the power to make a lot of people happy” by beating Chelsea, and their goal is to retain the Treble of trophies they picked up last season.

They won Liga F, the Spanish Cup and the Women’s Champions League in 2022-23.

There has been recent disappointment for Barca’s men’s side as they were knocked out of the Champions League by Paris St-Germain on Tuesday, with Bonmati watching from the stands at the Estadi Olimpic Lluis Companys.

But she says there is “no [added] responsibility” for the women’s team to win and they are preparing to face a different style of play from Chelsea.

“We are used to playing against teams that always played different against us because I think we have a unique style across the world,” said Bonmati.

“We like to keep more of the ball and develop the play through the ball. But whenever we played Chelsea, they are more vertical and direct. Maybe Manchester City and Arsenal are not like this, but we are used to seeing English football like this.

“Years ago I would say that maybe we don’t have the same physical [attributes] but now we are more capable of playing against any team. I can say [Chelsea are] a team that does not like to have the ball a lot but can play more direct than us.”

‘Mentality is the key that gave me everything’

Bonmati was the star of the show the last time Chelsea travelled to Barcelona and she finished the 2022-23 campaign as a world champion with Spain.

She won every tournament her club and country entered and picked up all the individual accolades available, including the Ballon d’Or, Fifa Best Player and Uefa Player of the Year. No player, male or female, has had a more decorated season.

“It was an incredible season and I had a lot of feelings that maybe I can’t explain with words. Every moment was special. The games, the trophies and the days with the girls – every moment I enjoyed a lot,” said Bonmati.

“When it got to December and I realised the year was finishing, I felt a little bit – not sad – but it was such a unique year for me. I was proud. I always say I was able to win everything because of the team and not just me.”

Bonmati says she has been able to enjoy success because of her “mentality” – which is the “key” to winning.

“I’m a person who is ambitious and I trust in my abilities. My thought always is to keep learning and give supporters a better version of Aitana every year,” she added.

“I have some abilities and I can be a technical football player but without my mentality, I couldn’t have achieved everything. I want more, of course.

“It is the key to success, to winning everything and to want to keep winning. That is something which is the most difficult sometimes. When you are winning everything every year, maybe you can relax and feel tired. We want to keep winning.”

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