UEFA Champions League 2016/17 Quarterfinal first leg:
|Wednesday, Mar. 22nd|
|19.00||FC Rosengard (SWE)||–||FC Barcelona (ESP)|
|Thursday, Mar. 23rd|
|19.00||Fortuna Hjoerring (DEN)||–||Manchester City Ladies (ENG)|
|19.00||Bayern Munich (GER)||–||Paris Saint-Germain (FRA)|
|20.15||VfL Wolfsburg (GER)||–||Olympique Lyon (FRA)|
We still are in the ongoing process where the gap between the big budget clubs and the smaller budget clubs and maybe some who arent paying their players at all is getting smaller all across Europe. Because the interest in womens football has grown to a degree that probably is motivation enough for – maybe even unpaid – players to train on a (nearly) daily basis and thus letting them get much closer to the top professionals.
Should this year see big wins from this stage on in the women’s Champions League it is simply because this can happen even amongst fairly even contestants like it does in mens football. But the times where we have seen double figure wins on aggregate in CL quarter- or even semi-finals because of hugely different performance levels seem to be over fortunately.
Still since 2009/10 when the women’s CL started we had 13 out of the 14 finalists coming from Germany or France though. Only Tyreso managed once to break this dominance. But they went bankrupt even before they played the final under suspicious circumstances. (Thankfully on the other side it left the public with the only official numbers of wage payments to womens pro football players in the due course).
And still chances are decent we see the two finalists coming from these two countries again and thus it is a little bit of a pity they meet thus early kicking each other out. But who knows?
Top match: VfL Wolfsburg – Olympique Lyon
A possible revenge here for the final last year.
Lets have a look what has changed in Wolfsburg? They added Gunnarsdottir from Rosengaard to the roster last summer. Dont know whether this paid off like expected. Then they added Harder to the roster instead of Bachmann this winter. And those who did expect that to be a win have been not wrong so far. Only it seems even bigger than expected. Harder is not a player who predominantly waits for the ball to be played at her feet to start some action from there but is also able to exploit free spaces running into them without ball and asking her teammates to play it there and thus stretching a defense much more.
Goessling, Simic and Jakabfi – the leading scorer of this years CL season – are injured. A big disadvantage. But compared to last years final they have got Hansen back from injury(?).
And what has changed in Lyon? They added Maroszan from Frankfurt and Seger, Dali, Hamraoui and L’Hommeaux from rivals PSG. Only Necib retired. And they finally got Alex Morgan to join them this winter. If only for half a year. Looks as if all main players are healthy at the moment. Though the roster is that strong that only in very few cases (Renard?) any injury would be a big disadvantage for the individual class of the team. Usually for example they pitch only 2 of the attacking trio Morgan, Hegerberg and LeSommer. And one player like Thomis gets only a few minutes here and there.
Lara Dickenmann who joined Wolfsburg from Lyon together with Elise Bussaglia few years ago explained the differences quite matching (though she used slightly different words): Olympique Lyon tries to be victorious by playing the “better” football, VfL Wolfsburg simply by winning. What might be a considerable difference. Wolfsburg are usually not hestitant against strong opposition to destroy the game and focus more on using what they call second balls at times. Basically that means kicking the ball in the dangerous areas somehow ready to lose it to the opponents but focussing on immediate regaining possession by strong pressing and waiting for any kind of faults or incomplete clearances. It worked for them in the final last year.
That difference could be expected to be the basic pattern here too with both of course also using other tactical elements as well having learned some lessons mutually. So it will be interesting to see how far Hansen and Harder will be able to hurt the Lyon defense with fast counter style attacks but significantly less support from the midfield than Lyons attack should have on the other side. And how much Lyon is able to play their way through the compact Wolfsburg defense.
Or will the focus again be shifting? It is definitely nice to have them play two matches instead of one to see that. Wolfsburg got some problems at times with the lonely Vivianne Miedema against Bayern Munich in their last game. They might be stunned by a team where all players are about on a similar level instead of one only. On the other side there are doubts too. Lyons defense isnt used at all to defend attacks of the quality Wolfsburg have. And then there was the shocking performance of the French N11 against Germany in the SheBelieves Cup. Dont know how much that was due to a lack of interest of the French side. However it looked like the French werent able to play “better” than the quality German Bundesliga players in the N11. But VfL Wolfsburg have high quality players better than the German N11 in midfield and attack. The question here is whether Chelsea London and Eskilstuna havent seen the danger coming when they analysed their videos. Both strong CL opponents have been outplayed by a huge margin this season by Wolfsburg in the first leg (3:0 at Chelsea and 5:1 at Eskilstuna, playing already laid back in the second half) from the first minute. Dont expect that from Lyon.
Bayern Munich – Paris Saint-Germain
The “little sister” of the Wolfsburg – OL match sees the “second best” participants from the “leading” womens Champions League nations battle it out.
What has changed at PSG? The most of our 4 top teams. Seger and Hamraoui and L’Hommeaux have all left for OL. Mittag for Wolfsburg. Erika also left. They instead added Perisset and Spaniard Paredes for the defense alongside the upcoming youngsters like Katoto. For the midfield they got Boquete from Bayern and in the winter also Brazilian “evergreen” Formiga and Canadian bronze medal winner Lawrence. Henry – not a joke – joined in January and has left again already.
What has changed at Bayern? They added a lot of players to their roster. After having to deal with the blow of an early shock exit at the hands of Twente in last years CL competition they wanted to improve. Despite they finished Bundesliga with a 10 points lead over second placed Wolfsburg last summer. Amongst the best known additions are German internationals Laudehr and Faisst, U20 Gerhard, Dutch international van der Gragt, and in the winter Swede international Rolfö. And despite losing no players the improvements of the roster resulted in a rather dramatic decline in the league. Looks unlikely the improved roster of 10point advantage champions from last season manage to get a top2 spot and thus miss qualification for next years CL at the moment. A number of injuries didnt help. Actually they have to replace Leupolz, van der Gragt, Laudehr, Faisst, Schnaderbeck, Gerhard, Iwabuchi. But long time injured Lena Lotzen is about to rejoin and 16 year old youngster Sydney Lohmann had a promising start most recently in the league when they lost 2:0 away at Wolfsburg (ed.: might be unavailable for CL).
Paris on the other side is coming from a big upsetting loss at Olympique Marseille at the weekend. First time for how many years ? against a team that had not yet counted to the “big 4” in France’s womens football “establishment”?. That leaves them like Bayern also now very doubtful for a top2 finish and thus of qualification for next seasons CL with Montpellier now looking to be favorites alongside Lyon.
Basically we have the same roles like in the other German – French match up. Paris play based more on technical abilities. Bayern more on athletics, power and strength in duels. But will it be the wide open contest? Will Paris find a gap to play through the Bayern defense? Might be a rather random outcome here. Bayern lacked proper defense especially in Wolfsburg. If PSGs midfielders are given the time and space they might find a way through.
On the other side the main question is will FC Miedema be able to score? No other club is so dependant of one single player like Bayern all season. Behind Miedemas 8 goals we find only 1 player with more than one goal from open play all season (14 matches): Rolser – mostly used as substitute – has even three. Assisted by? – Mostly Miedema. Will set pieces again come to Bayerns rescue? Or will the others finally step up and win a game without their outstanding player doing the job?
Fortuna Hjorring – Manchester City
This is probably the encounter with the biggest favorite despite Manchester City ladies are new to the contest. We shouldnt underestimate Hjorring though who are a seasoned competitor with a lot of good players and an usually well drilled Danish team organisation. Manchester City already learned how difficult that can be to overcome. The faced Brondby in the previous round and just managed to get through with a tight 1:0 and 1:1 score. And that might be the main question for this encounter also: How difficult will City it find to score? Of course they added Carli Lloyd during the winter break to the squad that won the English title again last year and remained nearly unchanged elsewhere. The question is though when this addition will pay off. Not yet because they were nearly held to a goalless draw by smaller side (but well organised playing) Reading FC in their recent Cup match. (Narrow 1:0 win) That showed the same problems as at the end of last season and the last CL matches. Scoring still doesnt come easy and City are heavily relying on a rocksteady defense. Probably chances arent coming thick and fat for Hjorring but maybe a few are enough when they keep the City offense at bay similarly well like Brondby did.
(ed.: Hjorring matches are often streamed at mycujoo.tv (free and available to review later) in case it isnt broadcasted on Danish TV)
FC Rosengard – CF Barcelona
Spain are coming in womens football. The recent results of the N11 should be another proof. And so are Barcelona. They dont afford to buy the extremely big names. But their constant work pays off more and more and their good youngsters are now putting pressure on the established players as well. They got second last season behind Athletic Bilbao. And for the first time they added some “bigger” names to their squad. Brazilian Andressa Alves joined from HSC Montpellier. And they got Spaniard Vicky Losada back to Spain from Arsenal London where she was one of the outstanding players in the english FAWSL in last autumn. Also an addition was Quahabi(?) It is not easy to follow the Spanish players while they are using their different names. Might be cool at home but difficult internationally. Barcelona already had a good campaign in last years CL ousting Twente and then coming close to even overcome PSG. They lost 0:1 in 86th minute after a goalless draw in the first match. And this season they beat Twente already quite comfortably 5:0 on aggregate.
But domestically they are again only second this season so far 4 points behind Atletico. FC Rosengaards comes from a rather disappointing season in Sweden that saw them only second behind Linköpings in their 2016 season. They have lost Gunnarsdottir to Wolfsburg but got Landeka – more than a replacement. And they have got Lotta Schelin back on Swedish soil. Danish international Troelsgard also amongst those who joined recently.
One main interest should be to see here how far the technical style of the spanish team is already good enough on international level to find a way to play the ball through the opposite defence relying mainly on technical skills. Whereas Rosengard will be playing to release their “great old ladies” Marta and Schelin to score. Gaelle Enganamouit seems to be not yet fit enough? Difficult to get infos. But Lieke Martens seems to be on her way back to good shape as we have seen in the Algarve Cup.
But the main question to answer is: How far have Barcelona and Spain already got?