Women’s Super League. Last season, Arsenal and Chelsea struggled in the Champions League group stage, with Chelsea failing to qualify and Arsenal prevailing. This year, Arsenal topped the group, which included European champions Lyon and Italian champions Juventus. Meanwhile, Chelsea went unbeaten scoring 19 goals on their way to winning Group A ahead of Paris Saint-Germain and Real Madrid.
Has the gap between English teams and the European elite been bridged? Emma Hayes thinks so. “Sometimes we just think: ‘Oh, there’s an investment in the game in England, so they’ll compete’,” says the Chelsea boss, without really realizing what the experience actually means. Two years ago, when we were in the final, that was the beginning [our journey]But we were not ready. I think English teams are at a better level of competition because of the demands of our league, and the quality and depth of our squad.”
Roma’s brilliance from Group B in second place behind Wolfsburg is no less impressive. Roma are top of Serie A and are trying to end Juventus’ five-year domination of women’s football. However, with Chelsea, Arsenal or Barcelona going up, their journey is likely to come to an end in the quarter-finals.
Juventus were extraordinarily unlucky with the draw in both years as was the group stage format. Last year, they were in a group with two-time Champions League winners Wolfsburg and 2021 runners-up Chelsea, and they narrowly managed to advance at the expense of the latter. This season, a home and away draw against Lyon, the reigning Champions League champions and eight-time winners, and a 1-1 draw at home to Arsenal were not enough to progress. If Arsenal and Chelsea are a step behind teams with Champions League pedigree such as Lyon, Wolfsburg, Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain, then Juventus is another step behind.
Arsenal can be categorized as both winners and losers, because while they qualified for the knockout stage, losing Vivian Miedema to an ACL injury in the team’s 1-0 defeat to Lyon is a huge blow. It also highlights a problem plaguing top European teams such as Miedema, Beth Mead, Elie Carpenter, Katerina Macario, Alexia Potellas and Marie Antoinette Katoto, just some players missing from the Champions League due to similar injuries.
The absence of Ballon d’Or winner Potellas has done little to dampen Barca’s momentum, and Aetana Bonmati has been a big part of that. Last season, she scored four goals on her way to the final, which Barcelona lost 3-1 to Lyon. This year I’ve already had five assists in addition to four assists. Wolfsburg’s Ewa Bajor is the leading scorer with seven goals in six matches, with Benfica’s Chloe Lacas, Bonmati and Sam Kerr with five. Lacasse also scored twice in the qualifiers, but it was the Canada forward’s three goals in two matches against Rosengard and his run-in in defeats to Barcelona and Bayern Munich that lit up Benfica’s campaign.
Barcelona twice broke its own attendance record for women’s football last season. Matches against Real Madrid and Wolfsburg drew 91,553 and 91,600 respectively to the Camp Nou in the knockout stage. In the group stage, 163,094 fans attended matches in total. This season, that number has increased by 62%, to 264,267. This has been helped by more clubs hosting Champions League matches in their home stadiums and a better promotion. Another factor is the excitement generated by the interest catalysed in the Euros last summer and greater exposure to the competition, with each game broadcast.
#Womens #Champions #League #Group #stage #winners #losers #star #players #Susan #Warak