Tuesday sees the beginning of the 2023-24 Girls’s UEFA Champions League group stage and there are some big matches to be performed.
Though many will anticipate to see champions Barcelona to make it by way of, in addition to Lyon, the file holders for many titles (8), there may very well be some surprises alongside the way in which and it would not be the primary time within the competitors.
So how will all of it play out? Sophie Lawson has assessed every group, breaking down the narratives, selecting the must-see matches and predicting which groups will advance to the spherical of 16.
Group A provides among the similar ties from final season’s competitors, as Spanish LaLiga champions Barcelona shared a bunch with each Portugal’s Benfica and Sweden’s Rosengård, who got here backside and are seemingly to take action once more given their league season ends this weekend, on their technique to the title.
It additionally marks a brand new period as German facet Eintracht Frankfurt make their debut in group stage. Lengthy-time followers of girls’s soccer will know that the workforce was once 1. FFC Frankfurt and held the file for Champions League titles (4) earlier than Lyon overtook them, however they merged with Eintracht Frankfurt in 2020 and so begin afresh.
Should-see matches: Benfica vs. Eintracht (Dec. 13, Dec. 21)
Though Benfica are rising each season, they’ve understandably struggled to comprise the spectacular Barcelona previously, so the fixtures are almost certainly to determine who goes by way of with the Catalans.
Whereas Benfica have fallen into a cushty groove that lets them dominate in Portugal (they’ve gained the final 4 league titles and have 5 wins from 5 video games this season), Frankfurt are likely to battle with consistency and this season have three wins from six for a fifth-placed spot within the Frauen-Bundesliga. But when the items come collectively for the Germans they’ll actually placed on a present.
Participant to look at: Aitana Bonmatí (Barcelona)
This 12 months’s Ballon d’Or winner, there’s little extra that may be stated about Bonmatí. A key a part of Barcelona’s midfield who orchestrates and conducts video games as she works in concord along with her teammates, the 25-year-old is the heartbeat of the facet.
Barcelona are superb at navigating European ties and though they’ve had a few surprises in the previous few years, they need to end prime of this group.
If Frankfurt can steadiness out the journey and added video games that include taking part in in Europe then their high quality within the assault would possibly inform, because it did within the first spherical of qualifying towards Juventus once they rode out a storm to win on penalties.
2. Eintracht Frankfurt
Held up because the ugly duckling of this season’s group stage, some have questioned why the likes of Czechia’s Slavia, Austria’s St. Pölten and Norway’s Brann (all league champions) get to be concerned when greater groups like Arsenal, Manchester United, Wolfsburg and Juventus (all second and third-place finishers from their respective leagues) don’t. The easy reply is that by topping their leagues they ended up in a special path and proceeded to win their qualifiers. And now they’ve an actual likelihood to go far.
French giants Lyon are an outlier within the group due to their exceptional historical past in Europe and can virtually definitely end prime due to their squad depth, the timing of fixtures, expertise within the competitors and good old style ruthlessness. However the three different ties needs to be attention-grabbing given Slavia’s home season ends on Friday and Brann’s on Nov. 18, so they’ll battle with health.
Should-see match: St. Pölten vs. Slavia (Dec. 13)
Each golf equipment clashed within the group stage final season and there was little to separate them. Mária Mikolajová’s 91st-minute purpose was sufficient to present St. Pölten the win in Prague, earlier than a 1-1 attract Austria. This time round they’ll seemingly be combating tooth and nail for second place and there is a little more at stake.
Participant to look at: Melchie Dumornay (Lyon)
Having made a summer season swap from Stade de Reims, Dumornay already seems to be at residence within the Lyon assault and provides extra depth to one of the crucial gifted squads on the planet. An clever midfielder who is not shy of getting ahead to shoot on purpose, the Champions League will probably be a great likelihood for Haiti’s World Cup star to point out her high quality.
Lyon will end prime. They’ve needed to contest with an harm disaster for the reason that begin of final season however that will not cease them.
For the remaining, Brann are at a drawback with the scheduling as nicely being comparatively new to the competitors, whereas Slavia — who must contest all their group-stage matches exterior their league season — may nick it from St. Pölten due to their wealth of UCL expertise.
2. Slavia Prague
3. St. Pölten
4. SK Brann
This can be a box-office group. There are many first-time conferences and golf equipment with completely different kinds, so expertise and self-belief could dictate the way it performs out. However given the calibre of the opposition, it is a fiendish draw for the Netherlands’ Ajax who’re anticipated to battle by way of to a last-place end.
Should-see match: Roma vs. Bayern Munich (Jan. 24)
Though Roma vs. PSG and Bayern vs PSG may throw up some attention-grabbing outcomes, the match to look at has the 2 groups in the most effective type proper now. Each appear to know how their coaches need them to play; there’s a fluency to the Italians’ model that’s more likely to wipe out the advantages of Bayern’s expertise in Europe. Roma are six from six within the league, whereas the German facet have gained 4 and drawn two of their video games up to now.
Kicking us off first within the group, the sport is more likely to be a battle for dominance on the ball and the winners might want to take their possibilities. However the return leg on the ultimate matchday may very well be key.
Participant to look at: Tabitha Chawinga (PSG)
Probably the greatest purpose scorers in ladies’s soccer, Chawinga’s mortgage at PSG from Chinese language facet Wuhan Jianghan College FC needs to be sufficient to remind folks of her expertise. Single-minded in her pursuit of targets, the Malawi star’s thirst for attacking soccer will probably be key for PSG this season as she at all times provides an possibility for her teammates.
With their versatile and engaging attacking model, Roma ought to end prime of the group.
Though Bayern have misplaced over two legs to PSG on the 2 events they’ve met in Europe (within the quarterfinals of 2016-17 and 2021-22), PSG go into the video games in disarray, missing the arrogance and incision of earlier incarnations. So long as Bayern can take benefit, they need to declare second.
2. Bayern Munich
3. Paris Saint-Germain
4. Ajax Amsterdam
Lawson: Hayes-USWNT hyperlink makes loads of sense
Sophie Lawson discusses Emma Hayes’ rumored hyperlink to the USWNT head coach job after she introduced she is going to depart Chelsea on the finish of the season.
The group has one other tie from final 12 months, Chelsea vs. Actual Madrid, and the Blues at the moment are the third (of three) Girls’s Tremendous League groups who’ve needed to face a workforce from Paris within the Champions League this season — Arsenal had been dispatched by Paris FC within the first spherical of qualifying, whereas Man United fell sufferer to PSG within the second spherical.
Paris FC have a historical past within the competitors earlier than being absorbed into their present membership (some could bear in mind them as FCF Juvisy previous to 2017), however earned their spot with a shock win over final season’s runners-up Wolfsburg within the second spherical.
With Swedish facet Häcken unlikely to problem, the query is whether or not Paris FC can convey their finest soccer over two conferences with Chelsea and Actual Madrid to sneak second spot.
Should-see match: Chelsea vs. Actual Madrid (Jan. 24)
Maybe a predictable or boring alternative, Chelsea vs. Actual Madrid continues to be key.
The efficiency from Las Blancas in Madrid to seal a 1-1 draw final season was the most effective they’ve managed to date within the Champions League. As they proceed to develop, the Liga F runners up will want to have the ability to go toe-to-toe with groups like Chelsea if they’re to progress. Though lacking star midfielder Caroline Weir, there’s a depth of expertise within the Actual Madrid facet that needs to be sufficient to see them compete with the Blues. And, the scheduling of first and last matchday makes this one an intriguing prospect.
Participant to look at: Sjoeke Nüsken (Chelsea)
A gifted participant in a gifted workforce, Nüsken’s prowess and flexibility in midfield has caught the attention already. The Chelsea squad has been constructed so that each participant is one to look at, however the 22-year-old Germany worldwide has impressed since her transfer from Eintracht Frankfurt this summer season.
The surprising package deal of the Champions League to date this season, Paris FC will probably be hoping to tug off just a few extra shocking outcomes. However, given they had been not too long ago thumped 6-1 by Lyon in a league recreation, the concern is that they will not be capable to match the standard of Chelsea and Actual Madrid.
With the Swedish season ending this weekend, Häcken are hamstrung like counterparts Rosengård — additionally they misplaced coach Robert Vilahamn to Tottenham, whereas Renee Slegers left Rosengård to affix Arsenal as assistant over the summer season. Häcken could nicely find yourself on the ground of the group as Chelsea declare prime spot and Actual Madrid discover sufficient to undergo in second.
2. Actual Madrid
3. Paris FC
4. BK Häcken
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