The 2020-21 Women’s Champions League is becoming one of the toughest in the recent history of the competition. Several teams – Lyon, Chelsea and Barcelona – have won domestic runs and are now turning to the most important European competition.
This season marks the last before UEFA makes some changes to the structure of the tournament – including the long-requested introduction of group stages – and with the Olympics in the not-too-distant future (if COVID-19 allows), Clubs and The Players hope to make an impression. This is how the last 16 develop before the first games on March 3rd.
It is impossible to answer this question without first contacting Lyon. They won their fifth title in a row in 2020 and have not missed a final since 2010. However, Paris Saint-Germain had their 80-game winning streak in November. beating them is possible.
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Chelsea and Manchester City hope to be the second English team to win the UWCL. Emma Hayes is adored for her leadership skills in England but Chelsea’s away record leaves much to be desired. As for City, Gareth Taylor’s side have two 2019-20 UWCL winners in their ranks in Lucy Bronze and Alex Greenwood, and they hope this experience will give them an extra boost across the line.
VfL Wolfsburg regularly plays in the final, but after struggling a little domestically – he’s in unknown territory, sits in second place behind Bayern and runs the risk of ending his run of four titles in a row – has he may not get power over the line this year.
The USWNT stars can be seen in Europe
There will be strong USWNT interest in Catarina Macario, who joined Lyon shortly after joining the national team. She left the SheBelieves Cup early to return to France and takes her place among some of the best women players in Europe. Manchester City’s Sam Mewis returned from injury this weekend after a brace against Birmingham City. It’s a quick turnaround for Rose Lavelle and Abby Dahlkemper, who both only returned to England from the SheBelieves Cup on Friday but both played substitute games over the weekend. Lavelle, who won the Cup’s Most Valuable Player, hopes to show Taylor why she deserves a regular starting place.
Catarina Macario, who just joined Lyon, is ready to make a name for herself in the women’s Champions League. Photo by Brad Smith / ISI Photos / Getty Images
Player to see
Between established talent and exciting newcomers, there’s no shortage of players to see in the tournament. Players like Lyons Dzsenifer Marozsan, Wendie Renard and Amandine Henry are established professionals in the UWCL. PSG’s Marie-Antoinette Katoto highlighted the goals of the One Feminine division, as did Atletico Madrid’s Ludmila in the Primera Iberdrola. Lea Schuller also continues to impress for Bayern Munich and Germany. Keep an eye on 19-year-old Lena Oberdorf from Wolfsburg, who can appear occasionally and score a goal.
Wednesday March 3rd
Barcelona versus Fortuna Hjorring: Barcelona are on a remarkable run in Primera Iberdrola. It has won all 17 games it has played so far this season and conceded only three goals. Lluis Cortes’ side also have a strong UWCL record, having made it to the semi-finals in 2019-20 and past the last sixteen in each of the last five seasons. With players like Caroline Graham Hansen and Jennifer Hermoso, they will be favorites over Fortuna Hjorring, who faced eventual winners Lyon at the time last year. They are third in Denmark’s elite divisions, although only one point separates them from the first two.
Manchester City v Fiorentina: Manchester City were knocked out by Atletico Madrid at this stage last season and Taylor will be optimistic his side will continue to advance this year.
– Greenwood: Man City shouldn’t be afraid to say they want to win
After a rocky start to the season, City are in brilliant form that left them just two points ahead of Chelsea in the FA Women’s Super League. With 2019-20 UWCL winners, Lucy Bronze and Alex Greenwood by his side, and USWNT’s Sam Mewis, who announced her return from injury with a brace over the weekend, they should leave the challenge of Fiorentina behind. The Italian team won’t be a breeze, however, and there are some well-known former WSL faces in the roster, such as ex-City player Tessel Middag and former Arsenal defender Louise Quinn.
Fiorentina only lost one game in 2021, but this stage in UWCL competition has never been exceeded.
Rosengard versus St. Polten: The UWCL has not had a Swedish quarter-finals since 2017/18 and Rosengard hopes to correct this, as before this season the Damallsvenskan (Sweden’s professional women’s league) was always represented in the last eight. However, following a change in UEFA rules, they have to fight with only 15 players who are eligible to participate in the draw. This means that some of their players cannot compete in what their sporting director Therese Sjogran calls a “disaster”. You will also have to do without Swedish striker Anna Anvegard.
The Austrian champions St. Polten are in the round of 16 for the first time after conceding a clean sheet against Zurich. They are 13 places behind Rosengard in the UEFA club ranking, so they should overtake the Austrians despite the problems facing the Swedish team.
Wolfsburg vs. LSK Kvinner: Last year’s runner-up, Wolfsburg, was eliminated from the UWCL by Lyon in the last five seasons. After losing tournament player Pernille Harder to Chelsea, they have to prove they are still a dominant force. While they’ve struggled domestically this season – they’re five points ahead of Bayern Munich in the women’s Bundesliga and one more loss could earn their rivals the title – they’re still a talented squad, especially with young German defender Oberdorf.
The game put additional pressure on LSK Kvinner who won’t qualify for the UWCL next year without going through that round as he finished fifth in Norway’s top series. You will also meet a familiar face as Ingrid Syrstad Engen is up for Wolfsburg after moving from LSK this season. Coach Knut Slateim admitted they were the “underdogs” but hoped the two-legged knockout nature could play in their favor.
Chelsea v Atletico Madrid: Chelsea lost their incredible 33-game run unbeaten when they lost to Brighton & Hove Albion on February 7, but have returned to winning ways since that shock defeat at the WSL. Hayes’ team did not qualify for the 2019-20 tournament and the coach is looking to prove a point with the UWCL, her white whale, after reaching the semi-finals in 2018-19 and 2019-20. Last year she expanded her star-studded squad to include 2019-20 players from the Harder tournament, whose experience in last year’s final with Wolfsburg will be invaluable.
Atletico, one of the tougher sides their squad could have pulled, stand in their way after reaching the quarter-finals last year only to be knocked out by their Spanish rivals Barcelona. They’ve knocked out Man City for the last two seasons and Chelsea will have a hard time calming Ludmila and Deyna Castellanos, a key pair in Atletico’s attack. It’s been a difficult season for the Spanish giants and while they are third in Primera Iberdrola they are 13 points behind Barca, who have three games in their hands.
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Thursday March 4th
BIIK-Kazygurt against Bayern Munich: For the second time in a row Bayern Munich will face BIIK in the round of 16. Last year the German team reached the quarter-finals with a 7-0 overall victory, once again this year the challenge of the Kazakh team. Bayern are five points ahead of Wolfsburg at the top of the women’s Bundesliga, but have to do without the German internationals Lina Magull and Marina Hegering, who both have muscle injuries.
BIIK, who has not played a competitive game since his win against Kharkiv in the round of 16 in December, will enter the game as the winner of the 2020 Kazakhstan Championship. However, Bayern are expected to comfortably win this draw.
Lyon vs Brondby: Lyon aim to defend their title for the sixth year in a row, facing Brondby, who is in his 18th UWCL – a record achievement. With Lyon, one of the most notorious teams in women’s football, overcoming them is not an easy task for the Danish team and the French team should advance to the next leg. There will be interest in Macario, who joined Lyon shortly after his declaration for the USWNT and left the SheBelieves Cup early so she could return to France.
Lyon are not without their cracks as PSG ended their 80-game winning streak on November 20, but with too many talented players to list they won’t just be tossed aside. It’s a David vs. Goliath task where Brondby is runner-up in the Danish Super League.
Tuesday March 9th
Paris Saint-Germain v Sparta Prague: It’s a potentially exciting season for last year’s semi-finalists PSG, who are at the top of the One Feminine division after beating Lyon. Jean-Luc Vasseur’s team have dominated both domestically and abroad, but PSG have shown some weaknesses. Canada’s Jordyn Huitema and Ashley Lawrence didn’t travel for the SheBelieves Cup, which means both will be fresh. Katoto has 17 goals in the league and manager Olivier Echouafni is hoping to team up with top assistant Kadidiatou Diani to see them pass Sparta Praha.
While Martin Masaryk’s side defeated Glasgow City semi-finalists to reach the round of 16 last year, PSG present a different challenge than the Scottish ones. The all-Czech squad, who finished second in the Czech premier league last season and led the league this year, will hope to use their strength to outperform their opponents, but PSG should make progress.