Chelsea and Arsenal see improvement as Women’s Champions League returns

The 2022/23 Women’s Champions League kicks off on Wednesday with the opening night of the group stage, when Arsenal play holders Lyon.

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

Chelsea want to recover

Reigning women’s Super League champions Chelsea begin their campaign on Thursday with an away game against Paris St Germain, in a group that also includes Real Madrid and Albanian club Vllaznia. After finishing runners-up in the 2020/21 Champions League, the Blues suffered disappointment in Europe last season, failing to advance to the knockout stages. Despite having a star-studded team, they are currently without boss Emma Hayes as she recovers from surgery earlier this month.

chasing glory

Alongside Lyon, Jonas Eidevall’s Arsenal, who beat Ajax in the last qualifying round, will face Juventus and Zürich in their group. The Gunners are looking to improve in the quarterfinals last year when they lost over two legs to Wolfsburg. Going all the way Arsenal would emulate something they achieved 15 years ago – they remain the only English club to have won the competition, as part of a 2007 four-pack under Vic Akers that included Hayes in his had coaching staff.

England stars to see

Various members of England’s Euro-winning side will be there – including 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 who left WSL over the summer: FC Barcelona’s Lucy Bronze and Keira Walsh, and FC Bayern Munich’s Georgia Stanway, all three of whom have joined from Manchester City. Barca and Bayern were drawn into the same group.

Those who missed it

City, who still have some English stars like Lauren Hemp and Chloe Kelly, are absent from the group stage after being beaten by Real Madrid in qualifying for the second straight season. The 1-0 defeat for Gareth Taylor’s side was sealed this time by a goal from Caroline Weir, another player who left the club in the summer. Scottish champions Rangers were also eliminated by Benfica in the qualifying rounds.

The master

Lyon secured the trophy in May with a 3-1 win over 2021 champions Barcelona in Turin that took their record tally of Champions League triumphs to eight. Former Ballon d’Or winner Ada Hegerberg was a key figure in that win, scoring one goal and setting up another as she continued her return from a long-term injury. Barca’s goal on the day was scored by Alexia Putellas, who won the Ballon d’Or for the second consecutive week this week but is currently out with injury and recovering from a cruciate ligament rupture. Chelsea and Arsenal see improvement as Women’s Champions League returns

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