Soccer News: Women’s Champions League: who’s in the game, who’s not, will Beth Meade qualify for the 2023 Ballon d’Or?

    Alexia Putellas has led Beth Mead to the Ballon d’Or and now the Women’s Champions League should start in earnest as the group stage goes into full swing.

    It’s already been an exciting year for women’s football in Europe, with Euro 2022 a resounding success, but club play is picking up.

    The biggest clubs on the continent are backing women’s teams and while this means some early adopters are being squeezed out, the quality and professionalism of the Champions League is growing every year. This is the second year that a group stage has been held, which is another sign of progress.

    Here, Stats Perform takes a look at the 2022-2023 tournament and its promising prospects, with 16 teams vying to reach the final at Eindhoven’s Philips Stadion in June.

    Before the arrival of the Lionesses, there was Lyon… and they are the queens of the UWCL.

    French club Lyon have set the bar high with their backing and investment in women’s football, led by owner Jean-Michel Aulat.

    Their first Champions League title came in 2010-11 and last season they won the trophy for the eighth time with a 3-1 win over Barcelona in Turin.

    Barcelona went into this May exhibition match in top form, but Lyon took a 3-0 lead in 33 minutes. Putellas pulled back one goal, but it was not her day and not Barcelona.

    Instead, Lyon celebrated, and perhaps no one more than Ada Hegerberg, their star Norwegian striker. Trying to return to full fitness after an ACL rupture ruled her out for over 18 months, Hegerberg scored a goal and provided an assist in the final.

    “A year ago I never imagined that I would win the Champions League,” Hegerberg said that evening. “Recovering from injury and getting back to this level is extremely inspiring and I am very grateful.”

    Now Putellas will have a similar path. The Barcelona and Spain star, voted the best player in the world, suffered a serious ACL injury ahead of Euro 2022 and if she plays again this season, it will only be in recent weeks.

    Applicants in line

    Expect Lyon to get strong again, of course, but they’re starting with a big test against Arsenal, who have Euro 2022 Ballon d’Or and Ballon d’Or winner Beth Mead in their ranks.

    Arsenal certainly have a powerful pair on and off the pitch in Mid and the brilliant Vivianne Midema, so Jonas Eidevall’s side could push Lyon to first place in Group C, which also includes Juventus and “Zurich”.

    Of course, such star players may see this competition as a chance to qualify for the Ballon d’Or next year.

    Barcelona have changed a lot since last season: Jenny Hermoso, Lieke Martens and Melanie Serrano are no longer part of their team. Hermoso and Martens moved to Pachuca and Paris Saint-Germain respectively, while Serrano retired at the age of 32, having been a first-team regular since his late teens.

    Brazil striker Geise has joined the squad from Madrid, while Euro 2022 winners Lucy Bronze and Kira Walsh have arrived from Manchester City. The loss of Putellas is a big blow and how Barcelona handle the European elite without her will be key in the coming months. Their rivals in Group D are Bayern, Rosenborg and Benfica.

    Chelsea finished runners-up in 2020–21 but last season Emma Hayes’s side were eliminated by goal difference in the group stage after they and top two Wolfsburg and Juventus finished tied on 11 points . Hayes is resting after an emergency hysterectomy. The Blues, which include an all-star squad of Sam Kerr, Fran Kirby, Millie Bright and Pernille Harder, will face Real Madrid, PSG and Vlaznia in Group A.

    Wolfsburg are regulars in the Women’s Champions League and have won the trophy back-to-back in 2012-13 and 2013-14, as well as being runners-up three times. They will play Slavia Prague, St. Pölten and Roma in Group B. Alexandra Popp is in good shape after an injury that kept her out of England in the Euro 2022 final, while Lena Oberdorf is on patrol in midfield , and Wolfsburg may be just around the corner again this season.

    History so far

    Manchester City and Real Madrid clashed early in the qualifying round and it was City who squeezed out, losing 1-0 thanks to a goal from Caroline Weir, a player who left the English club to join the Spanish. capital just a few weeks before.

    Hopes of the Dutch team reaching the Eindhoven final have already been dashed, with Ajax and Twente eliminated in the preliminary matches. Arsenal beat Ajax on aggregate, with Midema scoring the decisive goal as Twente lost to Benfica.

    The composition of this competition has changed a lot over the past 20 years, reflecting the growth in the number of teams supported by traditionally strong men’s clubs.

    In the 2002-03 season, the quarter-finals included Umeå, Toulouse, HJK, Frankfurt, Trondheims-Orn, Fortuna-Yorring, CSK VVS Samara and Arsenal.

    Sweden’s Umeå beat Fortuna Hjorring 7-1 in a two-legged UEFA Women’s Cup final.

    It belongs decisively in the Champions League competition family in name and character, many of the teams that defined its early days are no longer a factor. Women’s football has made great strides and this season’s competition should highlight that.

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