Lyon, Wolfsburg cross paths once again in Champions League final

by Andy SCOTT
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Lyon players train ahead of the Champions League final against Wolfsburg

Before Real Madrid try to get their hands on a third straight Champions League crown this week, Lyon have the chance to achieve the same feat in the women's showpiece.

The dominant French club face Germany's Wolfsburg in Kiev on Thursday at the leafy Valeriy Lobanovskiy stadium, a short walk across the Ukrainian capital from where Real Madrid and Liverpool will clash on Saturday.

The size of the crowd and the prize money may not be the same -- UEFA offer a bonus payment of just 250,000 euros ($294,000) to the winner. In comparison, the side that emerges victorious in the men's competition stand to collect up to 57 million euros before substantial sums related to shares of television income are added on.

But this is the last time the men's and women's finals will be played in the same city, with UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin saying that decision was taken because "the potential for women's football is limitless".

And Lyon and Wolfsburg are worthy finalists here, with this the third time in the last six editions that they have met at this stage.

They torpedoed the hopes of leading English sides to make it to Kiev, with Lyon edging out Manchester City in the last four with a goal from England's Lucy Bronze, while Wolfsburg overcame Chelsea.

The last 10 champions have been either French or German, with Wolfsburg themselves triumphing in 2013 -- when they beat Lyon -- and 2014.

The extent to which Lyon reign supreme at home and abroad is remarkable -- they have just won a 12th consecutive French title, and have won four Champions League titles this decade.

"It is first of all down to lots and lots of hard work every day. It's in the girls' DNA, they are always looking for perfection," said the Lyon coach Reynald Pedros when asked how he has managed to keep his squad hungry.

No club has ever won five Champions Leagues, so Lyon are hoping to make history by beating a side they already defeated in the 2016 final.

Then, Lyon's triumph came on penalties, despite the prolific Norwegian Ada Hegerberg missing their first spot-kick.

The French side also emerged victorious when they met in the quarter-finals last season, en route to another penalty shoot-out win in the final, against Paris Saint-Germain.

"Last year they were two quite close encounters, with just one goal between us, so we can expect a difficult game," said Lyon captain Wendie Renard.

Wolfsburg are the German champions, and are fresh from beating Bayern Munich on penalties in the German Cup final.

And they have a Scandinavian star of their own to look out for up front in Denmark's Pernille Harder.

She scored one of the penalties as the Volkswagen-backed club beat Bayern at the weekend after an energy-sapping contest in the heat in Cologne.

"It was a tough game, it was warm, but it gives us energy to have won another title," insisted their Swedish skipper Nilla Fischer.

Recent winners

2007-08: Frankfurt (GER)

2008-09: Duisburg (GER)

2009-10: Turbine Potsdam (GER)

2010-11: Lyon (FRA)

2011-12: Lyon (FRA)

2012-13: Wolfsburg (GER)

2013-14: Wolfsburg (GER)

2014-15: Frankfurt (GER)

2015-16: Lyon (FRA)

2016-17: Lyon (FRA)

Lyon players train ahead of the Champions League final against Wolfsburg

Wolfsburg players celebrate beating Bayern Munich in the German Cup final