The 21st Women’s Champions League has a group stage for the first time, and the 16 clubs competing this year have already learned their fate. In all, four groups of four teams are formed, with two teams from each group advancing to the quarter-finals draw.
Defenders of the title Barcelona, Chelsea, Bayern Munich, and PSG all qualified automatically for the tournament after winning their respective domestic leagues. However, all four of these teams will face difficult group stage opponents, with some intriguing matchups on paper.
The following are the top five ties to watch this season:
Chelsea vs Wolfsburg
Despite losing in the final to Barcelona in Gothenburg last year, the Blues were seeded first in the draw after winning the Women’s Super League. Wolfsburg joins them in Group A, a team Emma Hayes’ team has met four times in the last six years.
Last year’s quarter-finals saw Chelsea defeat Wolfsburg, but the German team had won the previous three meetings. The Frauen-Bundesliga squad has won the Champions League on two occasions, but they finished second in the domestic league last season and are no longer the force they once were.
Pernille Harder, who joined Chelsea from Wolfsburg for a world-record price in 2020, will appreciate the chance to return to her previous team.
Real Madrid vs PSG
PSG, the French champions, will face Real Madrid in the best match in Group B. Last year, the Parisians stopped Lyon’s five-year winning streak in Europe and won the league ahead of their opponents.
PSG will want to continue on their recent success and add a first Champions League title to their burgeoning cabinet with players like Marie-Antoinette Katoto and Sandy Baltimore. Madrid, however, is on the rise, having finished second in the Primera División last season despite having only been created in 2020.
The Spanish side also eliminated Manchester City on their way to the group stage, indicating that they are not a team to be written out this season.
Arsenal vs Barcelona
In last year’s final, Barcelona defeated Chelsea to win their first European trophy. The Catalan team are the new dominant power in international football, with star talent in every position, and are unsurprisingly favorites to retain their Champions League crown.
Arsenal has struggled in previous years, but they are off to a great start this season, sitting joint top of the WSL after two games.
The Gunners, led by new head coach Jonas Eidevall, recently defeated Chelsea 3-2 at the Emirates and appear to be title contenders this season. Arsenal may well give the Spanish team a better game than many forecasts, having added Nikita Parris from Lyon and former Manchester United star Tobin Heath.
Lyon vs Bayern Munich
Despite their unrivaled European record, Bayern Munich is the top seed in Group D, with Lyon coming in second. Last season, the German team won the Frauen-Bundesliga, and they appear to be improving year after year.
Lyon may have had a poor 2020/2021 season, but they have begun this year with a bang, scoring 15 goals and allowing none in their first three league games. Former Arsenal midfielder Danielle van de Donk, as well as Chilean goalkeeper Christiane Endler, have been added to the French team.
Juventus bs Chelsea
Emma Hayes’ club has been placed in the dreaded ‘group of death,’ where they will face both Juventus and Wolfsburg.
Juventus, the Italian champions, are currently managed by Joe Montemurro, a former Arsenal manager who led the Gunners to a 5-0 victory over the Blues. Despite being unseeded in this year’s championship, the Turin-based club is soaring in the Women’s Serie A with three wins in a row and might create an upset.