The revamped Women’s Champions League gets under way this week with the opening round of fixtures of the new group stage taking place across Tuesday and Wednesday.
Here, the PA news agency takes a closer look at this season’s competition.
What does the group stage look like?
The first group stage in the competition’s history features four pools of four teams. After clubs have faced each other home and away between now and mid-December, the top-two finishers in each group will take part in the quarter-finals in March.
Which Women’s Super League sides are involved?
WSL title-holders Chelsea, runners-up in this competition last season, are in Group A along with Wolfsburg, who they host on Wednesday, Juventus and Swiss side Servette. Arsenal open their Group C fixtures with an away clash against defending champions Barcelona on Tuesday, while that pool also includes Hoffenheim and Denmark’s Koge. The Gunners went through the qualifying rounds after coming third in the WSL last season.
Could Chelsea claim the trophy this time?
There seems no reason to think not. Chelsea were thumped 4-0 by Barca in last season’s final – and Emma Hayes will hope her star-studded group of players are even better for that experience heading into this campaign. With Sam Kerr, Fran Kirby and Pernille Harder, who all shone during last term’s European run, in their ranks the Blues have one of the most formidable attacks in the game.
And what about Arsenal’s prospects?
The Gunners, under new manager Jonas Eidevaal, also look set to be genuine contenders on their return to the competition after a one-year absence. They have made a 100 per cent start to the WSL season featuring a 3-2 victory over Chelsea and 5-0 thrashing of Manchester City, who finished second in the league last term, after a summer that saw them add the likes of Nikita Parris and Tobin Heath to an attack already boasting Vivianne Miedema.
Which other teams could do well?
Barcelona bid to defend the title having made clear their potency last season, while Paris St Germain and Bayern Munich look to build on runs to the semis in 2020-21. Seven-time champions Lyon are aiming to bounce back after a surprise quarter-final exit, at the hands of PSG, last term. Wolfsburg have reached four finals, winning two, in the last nine years.
What happened to Manchester City?
Gareth Taylor’s City were eliminated in the qualifying rounds by a Real Madrid outfit who are making their Champions League debut this season. Real are certainly a team to keep an eye on, and it will also be interesting see how Juventus do under Joe Montemurro, Eidevaal’s predecessor at Arsenal.
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