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Bronze adding experience in Barca's Champions League glory quest

Bronze adding experience in Barca's Champions League glory quest

May 28, 2023 (AFP)

Lucy Bronze has hit the ground running for Barcelona, winning Spain's Liga F title and reaching the Champions League final for the fourth time in her career, in her first season with the club.

The Catalans face Wolfsburg in Eindhoven on June 3, aiming to lift the trophy for the second time, while the German side have also won it twice.

Bronze, however, is a three-time Champions League winner with Lyon and that experience could count in the Netherlands.

Even her two-time Ballon d'Or winning team-mate Alexia Putellas has been questioning her about it.

"It's funny because I don't think it's the youngest players that ask that much," English right-back Bronze said in an interview with international media.

"When you're a young player you're just enjoying every single moment. As you get older you learn to find out more about experiences.

"One of the players who has probably asked me the most about stuff is Alexia. Equally their experiences are things I can learn from as well."

Bronze, 31, arrived at Barca at the same time as England team-mate Keira Walsh, who will be playing in her first Champions League final.

Bronze said the key to preparing for a game of this magnitude was managing the pressure that comes with it.

"It's learning from each other and sharing the pressure of going into games," said Bronze.

"I have a very different feeling going into the Champions League compared to even someone like Keira.

"I know we've played for Barca the same amount of time, but this is her first one and this is my fourth one."

Bronze needed surgery on a knee injury sustained in the semi-final win over Chelsea but has made a full recovery.

She arrived at Barcelona in 2022 from Manchester City, after a successful three-year spell at Lyon -- she also lifted the women's European Championship with England in the summer of her move.

In 2019 Bronze's Lyon ripped apart Barcelona 4-1 in the Catalans' first Champions League final.

"There were a lot of similar players at Barca as now, but maybe the lack of the experience they had going into that game, compared to the experience the Lyon team had was the most noticeable thing," said Bronze.

"That's the thing that Barca have improved on the most. They've always been talented technically and tactically.

"But (with) the experiences they've had now across the Champions League, I think this team is quite different mentality-wise to that team I faced in 2019."

Barcelona won the competition in 2021 for the first time by beating Chelsea, but lost last season's final against Lyon.

Bronze said coach Jonatan Giraldez was obsessed with learning from that experience and lifting the trophy this year -- even before they reached the final.

"One of the first conversations I had with Jonatan was talking with him about the final and how they had learned the most of their lessons literally from one game," said Bronze. 

"That's the mentality of a top team, he wanted to fix things for a final that we weren't even in yet ... and that when we do get there we knew how to right the wrongs of previous experiences."

Instant fit

"It's the experience -- you don't always have to talk about or explain things but she shows it on the pitch a lot for us," said midfielder Ingrid Engen, asked by AFP what Bronze brings to the table.

"She's come in and felt good from the beginning, even though it's maybe a different style of football, she's shown that she suits Barcelona really well.

"She brings a lot of good physicality for us, both defensively and in offensive play. It's been a really good match I would say."

Bronze has also linked well with winger Caroline Graham Hansen, one of the most explosive forwards in women's football.

"She's one of a kind in women's football, I think Caro has the ability to change a game on her own," said Bronze.

"She's probably the best winger in the world.

"Straight away when I played with her I realised what her biggest strengths and weaknesses were and try to complement that as best as possible to get the best out of her."

It is another example of the experience Bronze has put at Barcelona's disposition, and it could make the difference against Wolfsburg.

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