#UWCL: Eight clubs renew their bids for European glory this week

A view of a UEFA Women's Champions League flag
PA Images

Friday night will see the return of UEFA Women’s Champions League for the first time since October, with the remaining ties all being played in Spain.

Arsenal compete against Paris Saint-Germain while fellow British side Glasgow City face German champions Wolfsburg, holders Lyon take on Bayern Munich and there is an all-Spanish clash as Barcelona play Atletico Madrid.

New signings can be registered, meaning Noelle Maritz, Lydia Williams, Steph Catley and Malin Gut could all be in line for their Arsenal debuts come Saturday evening.

Josh Bunting previews the final eight teams left in the tournament.

Arsenal

Manager – Joe Montemurro

The story so far – Arsenal have defeated Serie A club Fiorentina and Slavia Prague on their way to the last eight. Striker Vivianne Miedema leads the way in the Champions league scoring charts with 10 goals. They also scored a remarkable eight goals in one game over Slavia Prague in London on Halloween night. They are the only remaining side to not have qualified for next season’s tournament, meaning they have to go all the way and lift the trophy to enter next season.

Star Player – Vivianne Miedema and her goals are crucial but Leah Williamson has been the standout performer in 2019-20 and she picked up the Arsenal Women’s supporter’s player of the season award. The 23 year old has excellent leadership and her passing range is unmatched by any other defender in the WSL. Williamson started all 15 of Arsenal’s league games this season scoring once and registering three assists, she also made 1,212 passes, showing she is one of the best ball in the division.

Leah Williamson
Leah Williamson. (Photo: Kunjan Malde for The FA)

Ones to watch – Lisa Evans and Katie McCabe are two of the most underrated stars in the WSL. Joe Montemurro likes to push his full-backs high, so in theory they will play almost as wingers, Arsenal are expected to line up in a 4-3-3 formation.

Leader – Kim Little is the Arsenal captain, she is a crucial part of the team and the Scotland international has netted four times for the Gunners on their way to the last eight.

UWCL best finish – Arsenal remain the only British team to have won the tournament back in 2006-07, Alex Scott scoring the only goal over a two-legged final against Swedish side Umeå IK.

Paris Saint-Germain

Manager – Olivier Echoufani

The story so far – Ligue 1 side Paris Saint-Germain are coming off a defeat in the Coupe de France final on penalties against Lyon. In the Champions League they’ve put both Portuguese side SC Braga and Icelandic outfit Breidablik UBK to the sword.

Star Player – PSG have an array of talent, Kadidiatou Diani would be their key player but she could miss Saturday’s clash due to an injury she sustained against Bordeaux in the Coupe de France semi-final. Diani has netted 12 goals in 16 appearances for the French side in 2019-20 and has also scored twice in the UWCL. The 25-year-old forward has scored 10 goals in 56 caps for the French national team, and was a member of two World Cup squads as well as Les Bleues at the 2016 Olympics and 2017 Euros.

Kadidiatou Diani
Kadidiatou Diani in action for PSG vs Breidablik. (PA Images)

Ones to watch – 19 year old Canadian Jordyn Huitema is one of the best young prospects in women’s football, she has scored four goals in four Champions League games this season, she also has 13 goals from 32 caps for Canada.  Goalkeeper Christiane Endler is also a huge asset to have, the Chilean is one of the best in the world. After a superb World Cup in France in 2019, the 29-year-old was finally recognised as one of the finest shot-stoppers in the game.

Leader – Irene Paredes leads from the back, the Spanish International is one of the finest defenders in the world and is a danger from set-pieces. She thumped in a header for the Parisians in their 2-1 win over Bordeaux in the Coupe de France semi-final.

UWCL best finish – It was a heartbreaking 2015 and 2017 for PSG, losing 2-1 to FFC Frankfurt in the former showpiece final, before missing out on penalties to Lyon at the Cardiff City Stadium.

Wolfsburg

Manager – Stephan Lerch

The story so far – The German champions are one of the hot favourites to go on and lift the trophy after yet another successful season domestically. Head coach Stephan Lerch announced he will be standing down next season, so he of course would like to add this trophy to his collection. On the way to the last 8 they thumped KFF Mitrovica from Kosovo 15-0 on aggregate and then saw off the challenge from Dutch side FC Twente, 7-0 over the two legs.

Star Player – Wolfsburg have lots of quality in every area but Pernille Harder is the one that stands out. The Danish international netted 27 goals in 21 Frauen Bundesliga games last season as her side won their sixth such title. Harder has also hit five goals in the four UWCL games so far. She was only 23 when named Denmark captain, showing just how important she is and how her leadership helps her side.

Wolfsburg's Pernille Harder
Pernille Harder playing in the DFB Cup final. (PA Images)

Ones to watch – Svenja Huth and Fridolina Rolfö could just be the difference in this tournament, two players who play out wide and cause plenty of problems with their pace and fluidity. They’re both are two of the best crossers of the ball in the women’s game and have so much energy, perfectly suited for Wolfsburg’s style of play. Rolfö scored a hat-trick on her competition debut against Liverpool in 2014, playing for Linköpings in her native Sweden.

Leader – German international Alexandra Popp is a real stalwart in the team, she has played for the club since 2012 and has made over 130 appearances for them. In 2019-20 she scored 11 goals in the 20 Frauen Bundesliga matches but is yet to find the net in this tournament.

UWCL best finish – Wolfsburg shocked Europe when they won the 2013 final at Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge. They also went on to lift the trophy once more a year later, beating Swedish side Tyreso FF 4-3 at the Estádio do Restelo in Lisbon. 2013 however Is the one that will stand out more so for Wolfsburg fans as Martina Müller scored a 73rd penalty as they beat heavy favourites Lyon 1-0 in London.

Glasgow City

Manager – Scott Booth

The story so far – The lowest ranked side left in the competition, it’s a remarkable achievement that they are in the quarter-finals. On the way to the last eight they have beaten Chertanovo from Russia and Brøndby IF from Denmark. The Brøndby game went all the way to penalties after a 2-2 draw on aggregate but goalkeeper Lee Alexander came out on top in the most thrilling of finishes.

Star Player – Samantha Kerr is only 21 but she is one of the best players in Scotland and won her first cap for the Scots in March against Ukraine. Kerr helped City win a domestic double last season as they created more history. She is a very dynamic player and will join Rangers ahead of next season, having signed a pre-contract agreement with the Gers.

Glasgow City's Samantha Kerr
Glasgow City’s Samantha Kerr during the Round of 16 second leg match at Petershill Park.

Ones to watch – Lauren Wade and Janine Van Wyk are ones to watch for City in the Basque country. Wade is a Northern Ireland International with 23 caps and has also featured for Icelandic side Throttur Reykjavik. The Coleriane native also previously played College football in the USA. Van Wyk could make her debut for the Scottish champions on Friday evening, the South Africa captain linked up with the club last month and is an extremely experienced defender whom City will need against the Germans.

Leader – Leanne Ross is Glasgow City’s captain and a club legend. She has been with Glasgow City since 2007 and has played all four games in Europe so far this campaign. Ross has helped City win 13 consecutive Scottish League titles.

UWCL best finish – This is just the second time in the club’s 21 year history they have reached the quarter-finals. It did not end well the last time in 2015 though, with a 7-0 aggregate loss to Paris Saint-Germain.

Atletico Madrid

Manager – Dani Gonzalez

The story so far – Atletico Madrid are in their first ever UWCL quarter-finals, having knocked out ZFK Spartak and Manchester City on their way to the last eight. The Spanish side defeated Man City 3-2 on aggregate with Angela Sosa scoring the decisive goal. Domestically they finished second in the Primera Iberdrola but they were nine points behind Barcelona and failed to reach the Copa de la Reina quarter-finals for the first time since 2012.

Star Player – Ángela Sosa scored 27 goals and in the 2018-19 season she won the league’s player of the year award . In 2019-20 she netted nine goals in 21 games and also registered five assists. Sosa has won two league titles and one cup and is aiming to win the the Champions League for the very first time.

Atletico's Angela Sosa
Angela Sosa goes for goal. (PA Images)

Ones to watch – Atletico Madrid have former Arsenal players in their ranks in Pauline Peyraud-Magnin and Turid Knaak. England International Toni Duggan is also one to keep an eye on, she netted five times in 15 league appearances and has played in three UWCL ties so far.

Leader – Amanda Sampedro is a skilful attacking midfielder and is most notable for her creativity and vision. She scored twice and claimed two assists for Atletico during the 2019-20 season.

UWCL best finish – This is Atlético’s fourth participation in the UWCL and the very first time they have qualified for the quarter-finals. They have been knocked out in the Round of 32 once by Wolfsburg (in 2017-18), and in the Round of 16 twice, by Lyon in 2015-16, and again Wolfsburg in 2018-19.

FC Barcelona

Manager – Lluís Cortés

The story so far – Barcelona have got to be one of the most feared teams in the last eight. They are the current Spanish champions and they could add Europe’s elite tournament to their collection. Juventus and Minsk have have had their campaigns in Europe ended by the Catalan giants, Alexia Putellas scoring in both games against the Turin club as Barca won the two legs 2-1 and 2-0. They then saw off the challenge from Minsk in comfortable fashion with 5-0 and 3-1 wins. Barcelona are likely to stick with their 4-3-3 formation that saw them win 19 out of their 21 matches in league and cup before the coronavirus pandemic hit.

Star Player – Jennifer Hermoso scored 23 goals in 19 matches for Barcelona as they claimed another Spanish title in 2019-20. Hermoso will be playing against the team that she left last season, Atlético Madrid. In her two stints with the club she has won three league titles, one Spanish Cup and one Supercup.

Barcelona's Jennifer Hermoso
Jennifer Hermoso of FC Barcelona. (PA Images)

Ones to watch – Barcelona have so much talent but Netherlands winger Lieke Martens and María Pilar León Cebrián are two of the best players in the world. Martens is one of the most difficult players to mark and she also registered five assists in 12 games, as well as scoring one goal. Leon is one of the finest defenders around, she reads the game so well and moves the ball extremely intelligently – a player that any side on the planet would hope to have in their side.

Leader – Former Arsenal player Vicky Losada is the captain of FC Barcelona. She played seven league games in 2019-20, scoring twice and claiming one assist. She missed a lot of the season due to the injury but could be pivotal in Europe.

UWCL best finish – Barcelona fell to defeat at the hands of Lyon in last season’s final in Budapest. It was the first time they had ever reached the final but Lyon were too strong and went on to win 4-1, thanks to a first half hat-trick from Ada Hegerberg and a goal from German international star Dzsenifer Marozsan.

Bayern Munich

Manager – Jens Scheur

The story so far – Bayern Munich have defeated Swedish side Göteborg and BIIK Kazygurt from Kazakhstan to reach this stage. Saturday will be their toughest test yet against Lyon but with their young and energetic squad, they will be in confident mood against the current European champions. Jens Scheuer will have his side up for it and they should play on the front foot without showing any fear.

Star Player – Lina Magul remains one of the underrated stars of the women’s game. She netted five tjmes in 20 games during the Frauen Bundesliga season and has also netted twice in the Champions League. She chips in with goals but is an extremely intelligent player, finds pockets of space and causes problems for the opposition at the back.

Lina Magull of Bayern Munich
Lina Magull takes on Lena Goesling of Wolfsburg, (PA Images)

Ones to watch – Giulia Gwinn and Lea Schüller are two of the finest young talents in Europe. Schüller has recently signed from SGS Essen, wherwas Gwinn is a very technical midfielder at just 21. Gwinn won Germany’s Young Player of the Year award for 2020 and has already had so much individual success in the international set-up from youth to senior level.

Leader – Carina Wenninger is the Bayern Munich captain following the departure of Melanie Leupolz to Chelsea this summer, with Austria’s skipper also handed the Bayern armband. She is a double Bundesliga winner and she has lifted the DFB Pokal and Bundesliga Cup. With Austria she played a part in the Euro 2017 semi-final, as her country defied all odds to reach the last four of that competition.

UWCL best finish – The German outfit have only progressed past the quarter final stage once in their history – in 2019 before they lost out to Barcelona in the semi-finals. They lost both legs 1-0 to goals from Mariona Caldentey and Kheira Hamraoui.

Lyon

Manager – Jean-Luc Vasseur

The story so far – Lyon are the favourites to win the UWCL once more this month and they are European powerhouses. The French side have knocked out Ryazan and Danish club Fortuna Hjorring so far and come into the game off the back of a Coupe de France final victory over PSG, so will be full of confidence come Saturday evening. Ada Hegerberg – who is the top goalscorer in the tournament’s history at just 25-years-old – will miss out however with an ACL injury, which is a blow for Jean-Luc Vasseur’s side.

Star Player – Without Hegerberg, Lyon’s star player would be Lionesses right-back Lucy Bronze, although it’s a squad crammed with world class talent. Bronze won the UEFA Women’s Player of the Year in 2018-19 and both defensively and offensively is key to the French champions.

UWCL to have last 16 group stage
Lucy Bronze holds aloft the UWCL trophy. (PA Images)

Ones to watch – Saki Kumagai and Amel Majri aren’t talked about as much as others in the team but they are crucial, Japanese international Kumagai is one of the best ball players in Europe and makes Lyon tick. Majri is also a versatile player, as she can play as a left-back but more naturally is a midfielder and recently won her tenth league title in a row.

Leader – Wendie Renard is a Lyon and French international stalwart. The defender is so experienced and there is no surprise she has won so many honours throughout her career. For a defender she also chips in with plenty of goals, as she netted seven in 14 matches in the league last season and four in three 2019-20 UWCL ties.

UWCL best finish – Lyon are six times winners and have lifted the trophy four years in a row and could well make it five in a row this month.

Quarter-final TV coverage (UK times)

Friday 21 August 

Glasgow City v Wolfsburg (BBC ALBA, 5pm)
Atletico Madrid v Barcelona (BT Sport 3, 5pm)

Saturday 22 August 

Lyon v Bayern Munich (BT Sport 2, 7pm)
Arsenal v PSG (BT Sport 1, 7pm)

The semi-finals will both be televised by BT Sport 1 at 7pm on 25 & 26 August, as will the final on Sunday 30 August.

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