After nearly 10 months, the UEFA Women’s Champions League is set to return to action. The eight remaining teams will square off in the quarterfinal round on Friday and Saturday to determine who will advance.
With the remaining knockout round matches all being decided over a nine-day period, the European competition will feel like an all-out sprint for players, coaches, and fans alike. In addition to the fixture congestion, all knockout ties will be single-legged.
Despite taking place behind closed doors, the quarterfinals won’t be without drama. Atletico Madrid and Barcelona will meet yet again for a timeless clash between Spanish giants, while Scottish powerhouse Glasgow City will look to pull off a major upset against highly-regarded Wolfsburg.
Lyon will attempt to exact some revenge on Bayern Munich on Saturday after its men’s team was soundly beaten by the German champions in the UEFA Men’s Champions League semifinals.
Arsenal will represent England’s great home against Paris Saint Germain in what shapes up to be the most competitive of the four quarterfinal matchups.
Here’s a closer look at the quarterfinals, which begin Friday:
Wolfsburg vs. Glasgow City
Despite winning 13 consecutive Scottish league titles, Glasgow City figures to be huge underdogs against VfL Wolfsburg. Known to be a club particularly adept at producing talent, Glasgow is the only part-time club left in the competition, having scraped by Brondby on penalties in the round of 16.
To make their situation even more unique, the league stopped due to the coronavirus after just one league game was played. It’s expected Glasgow will bunker deep and defend with 39-year old center back Leanne Ross. The veteran defender has been part of each of the 13 league titles and has scored over 250 goals for the club.
Wolfsburg is certainly the ‘Goliath’ of this matchup. In the four previous knockout round matches, Wolfsburg swept aside Mitrovica and Twente by a combined scored of 22-0. Die Wolfinnen has already accomplished a great deal this season by winning the DFB Pokal Women via penalty shootout, and by finishing atop the Bundesliga.
Failing to end to Glasgow’s cinderella run would register as a major disappointment to the German side, which is widely regarded as the best hope to knock off favorites Lyon.
Barcelona vs. Atletico Madrid
The Primera Iberdrola, the top division of women’s soccer in Spain, has been largely dominated by these two teams in the last decade, as both teams have accounted for eight of the last nine titles. Barcelona was awarded their first league title since 2015 this season, ending a three-year streak for Atletico Madrid.
In fact, Barcelona were in the middle of an incredible season by winning 19 of 21 league matches and the Supercopa before the pandemic. On their march to a cup trophy they vanquished Las Rojiblancas in the semifinals. In the Champions League, Barcelona steamrolled Juventus Women and Minsk in the previous rounds. Barcelona also defeated Atletico 6-1 back in September, a symbolic result of Madrid’s tumultuous season up to this point.
Although advancing past ZFK Spartak and Manchester City Women earlier in the competition, Atletico’s season was full of disappointing results and constant head coach turnover. Their third head coach of the season, Dani Gonzalez, has faced an uphill battle planning for this game. Gonzalez had five players test positive for COVID-19 last week, Spanish international Virigina Torrecilla was recently diagnosed with a brain tumor, and nine players left the club over the summer.
A win over Barcelona would send Atletico to the semifinals for the first time in their club’s history.
Paris Saint Germain vs. Arsenal
Two teams that eased through the previous rounds, Arsenal and PSG are about to experience their first difficult draw of this season’s champion league.
Arsenal finished in third place domestically after the Women’s Super League was cancelled due to the coronavirus. The Gunners breezed by Fiorentina and then Slavia Praha in the round of 32 and round 16 respectively. They will need to win the tournament to qualify for the 2020/2021 Champions League competition. To do this, they will be hoping for big performances from Dutch forward Vivianne Miedema who has scored 42 goals in 45 games for her club.
PSG thrashed Braga and Breidablik before the virus-induced shutdown, but closing out their league campaign in second place to Lyon may be a better indicator of the quality they possess. Olivier Echouafni’s side has only lost three times this season – each time to Lyon. The losses came in one league fixture, a cup final, and the Trophee des Championnes.
There’s no clear favorite in this match making it one of the most unpredictable games in the quarterfinal round.
Olympique Lyon is, indisputably, one of the most historically successful football clubs on the women’s side. Boasting six European trophies to their name, the French champions are just three wins from adding a fifth straight Champions League title to their trophy cabinet.
If the current season’s results are enough of an indicator, they seem poised to do just that. Sitting in first place in the French league with a narrow point over rival PSG, they also achieved Coupe de France Feminine honors by edging PSG in penalties in the championship match. After winning their previous champions league games by a combined score of 27-0, Lyon will feel confident at their chances of winning the treble.
Bayern is no slouch either, although the Bavarians fell short to Wolfsburg in the Frauen-Bundesliga this season. They may wince at the thought of facing Lyon in the quarterfinals, but a single elimination game format could lend itself to an upset, especially when Lyon’s Norwegian star Ada Hegerberg is expected to miss the match with injury. The 2018 Ballon D’or winner had surgery on ruptured knee ligaments just six months ago.