18 October 2022

Blues bid for better as Lyon eye ninth – Women’s Champions League talking points

18 October 2022

The 2022-23 Women’s Champions League gets under way on Wednesday, with the opening evening of group-stage action including Arsenal playing at holders Lyon.

Here, the PA news agency takes a look at some of the talking points heading into this year’s competition.

Chelsea look to bounce back

Reigning Women’s Super League champions Chelsea begin their campaign by facing Paris St Germain away on Thursday, in a group also including Real Madrid and Albanian outfit Vllaznia. After finishing as Champions League runners-up in 2020-21, the Blues suffered disappointment in Europe last term, failing to make the knockout stages. While they have a star-studded team, they are currently without boss Emma Hayes as she recovers following surgery earlier this month.

Gunning for glory

As well as Lyon, Jonas Eidevall’s Arsenal – who got past Ajax in the final qualifying round – will take on Juventus and Zurich in their group. The Gunners are looking to improve on a run to the quarter-finals last year, when they lost over two legs to Wolfsburg. Going all the way would see Arsenal emulate something they achieved 15 years ago – they remain the only English club to have won the competition, as part of a 2007 quadruple under Vic Akers, who had Hayes on his coaching staff.

England stars on display

Various members of England’s Euros-winning side are set to feature – the likes of Fran Kirby and Millie Bright for Chelsea, and Beth Mead and Lionesses skipper Leah Williamson, who is currently injured, for Arsenal. There are also some that left the WSL for pastures new over the summer: Barcelona’s Lucy Bronze and Keira Walsh and Bayern Munich’s Georgia Stanway, all three of whom moved on from Manchester City. Barca and Bayern have been drawn in the same group.

Those who missed out

City, who still have a number of England stars such as Lauren Hemp and Chloe Kelly, are absent from the group stage after being beaten by Real Madrid in qualifying for a second successive year. The 1-0 loss for Gareth Taylor’s side this time was sealed by a goal from Caroline Weir, another player who departed the club over the summer. The qualifying rounds also saw Scottish champions Rangers eliminated, at the hands of Benfica.

The champions

Lyon secured the trophy in May with a 3-1 win over 2021 champions Barcelona in Turin, which took their record haul of Champions League triumphs to eight. Former Ballon d’Or winner Ada Hegerberg was a key figure in that victory, scoring one goal and providing the assist for another, as she continued her return after long-term injury. Barca’s goal that day was notched by Alexia Putellas, who won a second consecutive Ballon d’Or this week but is currently out of action due to injury, recovering from an ACL rupture.

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