Earlier on today the draw for the round of 32 for this season’s UEFA Women’s Champions League took place at the UEFA headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland.
Previous finalists and debutantes dealt a mixed bag
Reigning European champions Lyon have been handed a long plane ride that should see them emerge victorious against four-time Polish champions, Medyk Konin, the hosts yet to reach the last 16 of the competition. 2015-16 runner’s up, Wolfsburg are set to give Spanish champions, Atlético Madrid a rough ride on their second outing in the tournament – Atléti’s previous in the competition a bruising 9-1 aggregated loss to Lyon in 2015-16.
Appearing in their ninth consecutive season, Fortuna are in for a fascinating 180 minutes as they come-up against debutantes, Fiorentina. The Italian champions left thankful not to have drawn a full-time side. The only other side to have reached the final two of the European tournament, five-time Russian champions, Zvezda have been drawn against D1F runners up, Montpellier. Jean-Louis Saez’ improving side about to discover how they fare after a long-round trip to the Urals.
The second and final team to make the UWCL bow this year, Ajax have set-up an eye-catching tie against former Italian champions, Brescia, the Leonesse set to take to the tie as the underdog having lost some key players in the off-season.
Nordics in for some travelling
First name out of the hat, Úrvalsdeild champions, Stjarnan would have been left cringing after drawing Rossiyanka, ensuring that they had the third-longest possible journey (only Zvezda and Kazygurt would have involved longer in the air). Although having fallen to Russian teams in each of their three round of 32 appearances Stjarnan may have been happier with a longer journey.
Set to be off in a similar direction, the Damallsvenskan champions and runners up will be travelling to Cyrpus and Romania respectively. Despite drawing the southernmost team of the 32, Linköping will like their chances against Apollon, the Cypriots yet to make it to the last 16, although with one of their strongest squads they’ll be no roll-overs. One of the youngest teams in the tournament (having only been founded in 2010), Cluj will have their hands full with a Rosengård side who’ve only ever failed to reach the quarters in one of their seven previous UWCL appearances.
A gut-wrenching first round exit was what was in store for LSK last season as they saw PSG come from 3-1 down to 5-4 up in the second leg and swiftly kick them out of the tournament. Up against Danish heavyweights, Brøndby, the Norwegians team will fancy their chances, the Copenhagen based side having suffered heavy squad losses over the summer to leave themselves depleted for the upcoming season. However with a bevy of young talents, BIF will be determined to make the Scandinavian derby a good one.
In their second year in the tournament, once again having made it three wins from three in the qualifying round, Avaldsnes would have been left breathing a sigh of relief that they managed to avoid Lyon this time around. However, drawn against a strong Barcelona side the outlook looks bleak for the Toppserien team once more.
Brits given a rough ride
Dealt a 7,000 mile round trip, Glasgow City are facing their longest ever European trip in their eleventh season in a UEFA tournament. Based by the Kazakhstan-Uzbekistan border, BIIK are no strangers to a long plane ride, though have been yet to face a British team in the knock-outs despite 2017-18 being their twelfth season in Europe.
Coming in well seeded after a strong showing in their first year, Manchester City have once again been rewarded with an easy to navigate draw, pitted against three-time ÖFB-Frauenliga champions, SKN St. Pölten. Although the team features many who’ve been capped for Austria, it’s hard to see a shock on the cards. Having fared far worse than fellow WSL side, Chelsea are again off to Germany. Although spared the trip to Wolfsburg – the team who knocked them out in both of their previous appearances – Chelsea will again be squaring off against a Frauen-Bundesliga side after being drawn against Bayern Munich. With a run to the quarter-finals last year, the Bavarians will be hopeful of getting into the last 16 but Chelsea could easily upset the odds and claim a seeded scalp next month.
Qualifiers not made to pay for being unseeded
The last three ties all feature teams who’ve already proved themselves this summer, first off Lithuanian team Gintra Universitetas (the university team associated with Šiauliai U) are making just their second round of 32 appearance out of 12 qualifying campaigns. Up against a team who know all about the qualifying round, Swiss runners up, Zürich were granted a reprieve in the competition when Nationalliga champions, Neunkirch withdrew from the competition. The only qualifying team not just to be seeded by not win their group either, Zurich know they’ve been handed a useful tie but not on a song in qualifying which saw them lose Swiss international Sandrine Mauron to an ACL injury, Zurich would be remiss to write off Gintra.
Sticking with qualifying Group 6, Belarussians Minsk held on against Zürich to finish top and secure their spot in the last 32 for the third season running, a trip to Prague on the cards after drawing Slavia. Comfortable in the first round of knock-outs, Slavia are well versed with the stresses of the UWCL and should provide a tough task for Minsk when they meet for the first time in Belarus next month.
The last tie is another to concern the Czech city of Prague, the Spartans having been draw away to Greek side, PAOK. Carrying a 50/50 record in the round of 32, having reached the last 16 on seven of their 13 appearances to date, Sparta will be glad to have avoided the two Swedish teams – the Czechs yet to beat a Damallsvenskan side after falling four times. August saw the fourth-time Greek champions reached the last 32 but never having made it to the last 16, PAOK may not fancy their chances of progressing in Prague.
The full draw
Stjarnan vs Rossiyanka
Fiorentina vs Fortuna Hjørring
Apollon vs Linköping
Montpellier MHSC vs Zvezda 2005
BIIK Kazygurt vs Glasgow City
Gintra Universitetas vs FC Zürich
Atlético Madrid vs VfL Wolfsburg
LSK vs Brøndby
Ajax vs Brescia
SKN St. Pölten vs Manchester City
Chelsea vs Bayern München
Minsk vs SK Slavia Praha
Medyk Konin vs Olympique Lyonnais
PAOK vs Sparta Praha
Olimpia Cluj-Napoca vs FC Rosengård
Avaldsnes vs FC Barcelona
All dates to be confirmed, first leg ties will be played on 4-5 October, with the return leg games slated for 11-12 October.