- Fight for UEFA Women’s Champions League final begins on Sunday
- Toni Duggan hoping to guide Barcelona past Bayern Munich
- England star gearing up for huge couple of months
After a week of drama in which the men’s UEFA Champions League semi-finals took shape, now it’s the turn of the women to start fighting over spots in their final.
While all four are desperate to reach the climax in Budapest, we’re guaranteed at least one debutant. Barcelona and Bayern Munich are giants of the football world, but both are yet to have their shot at women’s club football’s biggest prize.
One player aching to find herself competing to lift the trophy is Barcelona’s Toni Duggan. In the last four years she’s seen her England side stumble at the semi-finals of the FIFA Women’s World Canada 2015™ and UEFA Women’s EURO 2017, and exit the 2017 Champions League at the same stage with Manchester City.
With France 2019 now 49 days away, the next two months have the potential to be the biggest of her career. “It’s going to be a difficult game,” she told FIFA.com. "They are coming thick and fast now. I want to be fit to be ready for France but it’s important I’m fully focused on Barcelona, and Bayern’s going to be difficult. But it’s one we’re looking forward to.
“As a professional athlete these are the stages you want to be playing on and these are the times when you need to peak.”
Duggan made her switch to Catalonia three months after that near-miss with City and is now locked in a battle for her first Primera Division title, having taken to the challenges of a new life in a new culture. “I’ve loved every minute of it so far,” she reflected.
“It’s been a real test on and off the pitch, but that’s why I went there. I wanted to step out of my comfort zone and that’s exactly what I’ve done. I’d like to be closer in the league to Atletico but these things happen and I’d take a Champions League final at this stage, so hopefully we can get there.”
Locked on points, but having played a game more than Atletico, Duggan and Co will be hoping neighbours Espanyol can do them a huge favour on Monday.
Toni Duggan in brief
- Position: Forward/winger
- Age: 27
- Clubs: Everton, Manchester City, Barcelona
- Club honours: FA Women’s Super League (2016), FA Women’s Cup (2017), FA Continental Cup (2014, 2016), Copa de la Reina (2018)
- International caps/goals: 65/22
- International honours: Women’s World Cup bronze medal (2015), SheBelieves Cup (2019)
The reason they’re still in contention was an occasion to remember, too. In front of a packed-out Wanda Metropolitano, Duggan scored to seal a 2-0 win over Atletico a month ago in a moment to savour.
“It was unbelievable. It’s something as a footballer I’ve dreamt of and I believed it would happen and it’s happened. It was nice to score in front of 60,000 people and hopefully I can save a few more for France.”
Such was the sight of a packed stadium out to watch women’s football, England manager Phil Neville called for men’s stadiums to "throw open" their doors to host their female counterparts. But Duggan is keen for the sport not to get ahead of itself.
“It was amazing and I back what Phil says, but it has to be done at the right time, the right moment, the right occasion,” she outlined. “The women’s game’s still got a bit more to go – we’ve come a long way in a short space of time – but I believe it won’t be long before that’s happening week in, week out across the world.”