Two of the most successful clubs in European women’s football go head to head when 1. FFC Frankfurt meet Olympique Lyon in the UEFA Women's Champions League final on Thursday.
It will be the German team’s fifth final appearance in the continent’s elite club competition and they are out to claim their fourth title. “I’m really looking forward to the final and everything that comes with it,” Frankfurt coach Sven Kahlert told FIFA.com in an exclusive interview. “It’s important for a women’s Champions League final to have a worthy setting and I hope Munich will provide that.”
The two teams could hardly come into the match in more differing circumstances. While the French outfit have been in top form of late and travel to the Bavarian capital on the back of a 2-1 victory in the final of the French Women’s Cup, Frankfurt are still digesting two bitter defeats. A 3-1 loss against Turbine Potsdam left them out of the running for the domestic title, before a 2-0 reverse to Bayern Munich meant they finished as runners-up in the DFB Cup.
With only five days separating the two cup finals, Kahlert’s charges have not had much time to put the latest disappointment behind them. “It was only one game but there is enough time to rest and prepare for the match in Munich,” said Kahlert, who is now focusing his attention on Lyon.
Form on the day will be decisive
As the sides have never previously met in European competition, Kahlert has left no stone unturned in finding out about the opposition. “I know Lyon, in a manner of speaking, from the video analysis we have been doing ever since we knew we’d be up against them in the final,” said the 41-year-old.
“We have the tapes and I saw them play in last year’s final against Potsdam, as well as in their semi-final second leg this time around. Their team has pretty much stayed together and they know each other inside out. We have a lot of information on them and will be 100 per cent prepared for any situations that may occur. But in the end, form on the day will be decisive.”
Having scored 103 goals in the French league, Kahlert is well aware of Lyon’s attacking prowess. And as impressive a tally as that is, their defensive record is equally remarkable, with just three goals conceded all season. “Lyon are very strong up front and have shown that in all their games, both domestically and in the Champions League,” said Kahlert.
When two equally potent attacking sides go head-to-head, the one with a defence that can stand firm under pressure will be successful.
“They score a lot of goals and as a result are even better in defence. Because the opponent is so far away from their goal, there is less for them to do. They have quality in every area of the pitch. In [Lotta] Schelin, [Camille] Abily, [Louisa] Necib, [Lara] Dickenmann and [Eugenie] Le Sommer they have superb attackers. They are excellent in defence too and have several international players in the squad.”
However, Lyon are not the only ones with an eye for goal and Kahlert has great faith in his own strike force. “At the moment we’re unpredictable. Players who were injured are returning to fitness, like Sandra Smisek for example, who’s a terrific striker. Up front we have one or two options so we’ll see what works and make changes accordingly,” said the Frankfurt coach.
“In my opinion we’re just as strong in attack as they are. If you just look at the front lines, it’s virtually the French national team against the German one. We’ll just have to wait and see what happens on the day.”
Coping with pressure
Despite Lyon’s intimidating defensive record, Kahlert believes his own side’s back line could give Frankfurt the edge on the day: “Over the course of the season, our defence has had to withstand a lot of pressure in the league, the DFB Cup and the Champions League. That might be to our advantage, as when two equally potent attacking sides go head-to-head, the one with a defence that can stand firm under pressure will be successful,” said Kahlert.
The tactician may seek additional information on the opposition from two of his players who have already faced Lyon in a final, Desiree Schumann and Fatmire Bajramaj, who will miss out through injury. However, he does not believe his side will enjoy ‘home’ advantage, in spite of the final location.
“I think between 500 and 1000 fans will come from Lyon and maybe 1,000 to 2,000 from Frankfurt. It’s up to us to influence who the rest will cheer for,” said Kahlert. “I hope the spectators will see a good match and support us. But I don’t know if it’s a home game. I’m happy the final is taking place in Germany and that makes getting there a bit easier. We’ll see whether that gives us an advantage during the match.”
It is now up to his team to win over the crowd and make the dream of winning the Champions League a reality. Perhaps the Bayern Munich players, who line up in the men’s final two days later, will be keeping their fingers crossed for Kahlert’s side, just as he is for them. “There are never many goals,” the likeable coach said of Saturday’s showpiece. “But I hope Bayern win 2-1.”