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Women’s Champions League: Can Anyone Beat Lyon to the Title?

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Can Anyone End Lyon’s Reign in the Women’s Champions League?

The draw for the 2020/21 UEFA Women’s Champions League was made on Friday to set up the upcoming quarter-final and semi-final fixtures. Defending champions Lyon are undoubtedly the team to beat; they are looking for their record 6th consecutive Champions League trophy, having won the competition every year since 2016.

The 8 remaining teams in the Champions League who will compete in the quarter finals are Lyon, Paris Saint-Germain, Wolfsburg, Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Chelsea, Manchester City, and Rosengard. Sparta Prague are technically still in the competition as they are yet to play the second leg of their round of 16 tie against PSG due to COVID-19 reasons, but as PSG won the first leg 5-0 it’s probably safe to assume that the French side will be progressing to the quarter-finals.

So can anyone stop Lyon ? Or are they destined to win their 6th consecutive title? We take a look the sides aiming to win the 2020/21 Women’s Champions League.

 

The Challengers

Paris Saint-Germain

Paris Saint-Germain will be looking to get one over their French compatriots Lyon by finally achieving European glory. The Parisians will take heart from the fact that they currently reside at the top of the French league. They have played 15 games in the league this season, winning 14 and drawing 1.

Their quarter-final clash against Lyon is a repeat of last year’s semi-final match up. Lyon came out on top last year with a narrow 1-0 win. PSG will have to be at their best to defeat the reigning Champions, but they are a capable side. They reached the final of the competition in 2017, being beaten by, of course, Lyon. It will take a monumental effort from the French side to relinquish Lyon’s hold on the trophy.

Manager Olivier Echouafni will look to prolific forward Marie-Antoinette Katoto to help fire them to European glory. Katoto is fast becoming one of the world’s best strikers and has previous history against Lyon; it was her strike which condemned them to a rare defeat in 2020. The French striker has scored 20 goals in 18 games in all competitions for PSG this season. If she is at her best, she is sure to give Lyon something to think about.

 

Wolfsburg

Wolfsburg were last year’s beaten finalists, suffering a 3-1 defeat at the hands of serial winners Lyon. This was their third Champions League final defeat in the last 5 seasons. They will be looking to bounce back in style this year to emulate their European success of 2013 and 2014, when they won the competition.

Wolfsburg currently sit second in the Frauen-Bundesliga behind Bayern Munich. They will be aiming to retain their domestic title, which they have won for 6 consecutive seasons, as well as pursuing European success. In the Champions League, an intriguing tie against a strong Chelsea side lies ahead in the quarter finals. The German side will be confident of their chances, however, as they have an impressive European pedigree.

Likely to be a key player for Stephan Lerch’s side is two-time German Footballer of the Year Alex Popp, who scored twice against LSK Kvinner in the round of 16 to send the German side through to the quarter-finals. This meant that Wolfsburg have reached the Champions League quarter-finals in all 9 of their European entries. Popp will be looking to replicate this feat in the later stages of the competition and fire Wolfsburg to further European success.

 

Chelsea

Chelsea will be concerned to have been drawn against Wolfsburg in the quarter finals, having been eliminated by the German side in 2016, 2017, and 2018. Their only other season in the Champions League ended with defeat to Lyon in the semi-finals last season. The current English champions will be looking to go one step further this time around and make it to their first European final.

Emma Hayes’ side impressed in the round of 16 with a 3-1 aggregate win against Atletico Madrid, although they were somewhat fortunate as the Spanish side missed three penalties over the two legs. Chelsea can’t bank on such mistakes in the latter stages of the competition and must be at their best if they are to reach their third ever Champions League semi-final. Their current standing at the top of the Women’s Super League will give them confidence going into the quarter finals.

If Chelsea are to finally taste European success, it will likely be driven by instrumental forward Pernille Harder. Harder is one of the best footballers on the planet. She moved to Chelsea from Wolfsburg for a world-record fee in 2020 after being named UEFA Women’s footballer of the year. If she is at her best, Chelsea won’t fear anyone in this season’s Champions League.

 

Barcelona

Despite impressive domestic dominance, Barcelona are also yet to achieve European success. The closest they came was in 2019, when they became Lyon’s latest victims in the Champions League final. They exited the competition at the semi-final stage last season to Wolfsburg, and will be looking to put things right this time around.

The Spanish side are in great form this season, having won all 18 of their Primera Iberdrola matches to sit top of the league. The current Spanish champions will seek to take this form into their European matches. They made a good start on this in the round of 16, dispatching Danish side Fortuna Hjorring 9-0 on aggregate. If they are to succeed in the quarter finals against Manchester City, a daunting tie against either PSG or holders Lyon will be on the cards.

Jenni Hermoso has proved influential for the Catalan side this season. She is currently joint top scorer in the Champions League this season with 4 goals following a hattrick in the round of 16 first leg against Fortuna Hjorring. Creative force Caroline Graham Hansen also has the potential to set the tie alight. Barcelona have the capabilities to challenge Lyon’s European dominance, but this is their biggest test yet.

 

Manchester City

Another team vying to win the Champions League for the first time is Manchester City. The English side are battling on several fronts. They are currently engaged in a title battle against fellow Champions League hopefuls Chelsea who are first, one place ahead of City, in the Women’s Super League. However, the Champions League represents a chance to win a trophy that would outshine even a second WSL title for the Citizens.

Man City produced two resounding displays to defeat Fiorentina 8-0 on aggregate in the round of 16, led by forwards Ellen White and Sam Mewis who scored three goals each over the two legs. Gareth Taylor’s side have a tough quarter final fixture against Barcelona to come, but will take confidence from their current league form which has seen them defeat Arsenal and Manchester United in recent weeks.

Of Man City’s many stars, the one name that always stands out is England legend Lucy Bronze. The full back, who was recently named the Barclay’s WSL Player of the Month for February, has the ability to make the difference on what is sure to be a tricky European night. Make it to the semi-finals and Manchester City certainly have a chance of going all the way in the Women’s Champions League.

 

Bayern Munich

Bayern Munich are in outstanding form this season, having won all 15 of their games so far in the Frauen-Bundesliga to add to their promising start in Europe. They sit top of the league above fellow quarter-finalists Wolfsburg, who they beat 4-1 earlier in the season. They also have the incredible record of having outscored their league opponents by 59 goals to 3 this season.

The German side are certainly a strong outfit, although they haven’t always found major honours easy to come by. They are looking for their first domestic title since 2016, and have never made it further than the semi-finals in the Champions League. They will need to beat FC Rosengard in the quarter finals if they are to reach this stage again, but this is a tie they are favourites to win.

If they are to succeed in this task they will need their key players to step up. One such player is Sydney Lohmann, an eye-catching attacking talent who has established herself as a key player this season. Creator-in-chief Lina Magull will also be relied upon to pick the defences of their European opponents. Bayern Munich will need all of their talents to be on form if they are to break Lyon’s dominance and win the Women’s Champions League.

 

FC Rosengård

Rosengard are looking to make it to the Champions League semi-finals for the first time since 2004. The Swedish outfit, who are based in Malmö, have reached the quarter finals for the first time since 2017 after crashing out in the round of 16 in their last two European ventures.

Rosengard have won the Damallsvenskan, the top division of women’s football in Sweden, a record 11 times, but European glory is naturally harder to come by. Their prospective tie against Bayern Munich represents a tricky outing for the Swedish side. In contrast, their round of 32 opponents WFC Lanchkhuti were easily swept aside, with Rosengard registering an incredible 17-0 aggregate win. They then edged through a tighter tie in the next round, this time beating Austrian side St. Polten 4-2 over the two legs.

Caroline Seger is sure to be a key player for Rosengard in their Champions League fixtures. The industrious central midfielder captains both Rosengard and the Swedish national side and will be searching for further European glory, having won the competition with Lyon in 2017. If Rosengard are to find success against the odds in the Women’s Champions league this season, it will no doubt be partly due to the Swedish footballing legend.

 

The Defending Champions

Olympique Lyon

Lyon’s record in modern European football is scarcely believable. Touted as a model example for football clubs around the world, the French side have enjoyed unprecedented success both domestically and in Europe. They have won the Champions League a record 7 times, including in the last 5 seasons, and have won an incredible 14 consecutive league titles.

The French and European champions evidently have a roster that is packed with star quality. Wendie Renard, who captains the side, has been one of the best centre halves in the women’s game for several years and has recently been nominated for the Laureus World Sportswoman of the Year award. Saki Kumagai and Amandine Henry can dictate the play effortlessly in midfield. Delphine Cascarino and Nikita Paris provide an abundance of speed and skill in attack. The squad is beset with world class players.

 

Can They Maintain Their Success?

Lyon have won their four Champions League games so far this season, winning both legs against Juventus and Brondby in the previous rounds. Their league form has been similarly impressive. They have won 14 out of their 15 games, although they sit second behind Paris Saint-Germain. Lyon will be confident of their ability to retain their Champions League title, although they will be wary of the threats posed by a strong set of teams in the final 8. Their quarter-final fixture against PSG sets up an enthralling, unmissable tie.

However, there are some significant obstacles in the way. Lyon have been missing star striker and Champions League record goalscorer Ada Hegerberg for over a year now after her ACL injury in January 2020. The 2018 Ballon d’Or winner would be a miss for any team in world football. The teams around them have strengthened as well, determined to close the gap on the French club. If they are to retain their title yet again, they are going to have to fight harder than ever.

Lyon remain the favourites for the Women’s Champions League, but there are several formidable competitors waiting for their chance to take the throne should they slip up.

 

The Draw

Quarter Finals (First legs to be played March 23-24, second legs to be played March 31-April 1)

Bayern Munich vs. Rosengard

Sparta Prague/PSG vs. Lyon

Chelsea vs. Wolfsburg

Barcelona vs. Man City

Semi Finals (First legs to be played April 24-25, second legs to be played May 1-2)

Sparta Prague/PSG/Lyon v Barcelona/Man City

Bayern Munich/Rosengard v Chelsea/Wolfsburg

Final to be played Sunday 16th May.

 

We hope you enjoyed the article ‘Who Will Win the Women’s Champions League?’. Who do you think will win the Women’s Champions League this year? Let us know!

 

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Daisy is currently a final-year student at Newcastle University, where she is studying Politics at an undergraduate level and is on the committee of the Non-League Football Society. You can contact her at daisyruddock@hotmail.co.uk.

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