This year, the Women’s Champions League is following a format more similar to the men’s competition. Instead of granting top clubs in big leagues a free pass to the Round of 32, a familiar group stage system has been implemented for the first time ever. The thought is to, of course, create more intrigue, but also more matches. With the securing of DAZN as the broadcast home of the UWCL, adding more matches to the calendar was the easy part. As for the intrigue? Well, it appears they’ve nailed that too.
Chelsea have been drawn into a group with a familiar foe, and Pernille Harder’s ex-employer, VfL Wolfsburg. Die Wölfinnen have been an ungodly thorn in Chelsea’s side in the Champions League, dumping the Blues out of the competition in the Round of 16 in 2015/16, the Round of 32 in 2016/17, and the semifinals in 2017/18. It wasn’t until last season’s competition that the Blues exorcised this specific demon and sent Wolfsburg out in the quarterfinal, with Harder scoring the winner in the first leg and the first goal in the return leg.
And now, we get to do it all over again!
As is standard, the top two in the group will advance to the next round. The inclusion of Juventus makes the group a bit tricky, as they have grown in stature over the past couple of years with Serie A Femminile scheduled for full professionalization for the 2022/23 season. The Blues will have a chance to prove that the trend against Wolfsburg has truly reversed, but also be wary of an up-and-comer in women’s football.
But wait, that’s not all!
The overall draw has provided some excellent matchups outside of Chelsea’s Group A, the grandest of which is surely Frauen Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich facing off against an angry and rebuilt Lyon. There’s also a match that could be of particular interest to us, as all of the chuckling Arsenal supporters did during our unfortunate loss in the Champions League Final could come back to haunt them. The North Londoners will be facing the current title-holders, and also improved through new additions, Barcelona. Real Madrid, who knocked Manchester City out of the competition in the qualifying round, have an interesting test against PSG to see if they’re truly ready for Champions League football.
Though qualifying rounds came earlier than they probably should have, all in all the new format has done its job, and the 2021-22 Women’s Champions League looks is shaping up to be one of the most exciting in the competition’s history.