Earlier this week the draw for the second round of this season’s UEFA Women’s Champions League was made in Nyon with some interesting ties thrown up as well as some lop-sided ones.
Mixed bag for Czechs
Unseeded Sparta Praha were first out of the hat and were drawn against low seeds and current Swedish champions, Linköping. Whilst the I. liga žen runners-up will be pleased to have avoided a top seed they boast a dismal record against Swedish teams having lost each of their previous four ties to Damallsvenskan opposition.
Although neither side has ever been past the quarter-finals – Sparta fell at the last eight in 2006 against Djurgården whilst LFC were defeated by Arsenal in 2011 and Brøndby in their next outing in 2015 – both will be looking to at least get to the last eight. Maybe not one for the purists but a tie that could throw-up a surprise or two.
Just across the city, current Czech champions Slavia have been given a long trip to Reykjavik to face Icelandic qualifiers, Stjarnan who will be full of confidence finally having beaten a Russian team. Up against perennial champions Slavia, last season’s Úrvalsdeild champions could come unstuck after and long and less fruitful 2017 season that saw them finish fourth.
English teams primed for Scandinavian trips
Whilst Linköping have been dealt a manageable draw, last season’s runners up, Rosengård face a harder prospect in WSL side, Chelsea. Although the team from Malmö have far longer and more glittering history not just in their home league but the UWCL too, they’ve been considerably off of the pace this season and have looked a shadow of the team they were.
Mass departures and a lack of clear style and depth has hampered FCR this season and although they appeared to have picked up again since parting ways with coach Jack Majgaard the workmanlike team have struggled at both ends of the pitch having lost both starting centre-backs over the summer. This is an area that could be heavily exploited by Chelsea’s numerous attacking threats as their own defence is far more equipped to deal with Rosengård’s much-weakened attack since the two met on a cold day in February.
As Chelsea head for Sweden, Manchester City will be Norway bound after drawing dominant force in Toppserien, LSK. After a sterling first outing in Europe last season that saw City squeeze past two Danish teams they face a very different prospect in part-time LSK who’ve rather run away with the title this season.
Whilst Norwegian teams have been given a tough time in the UWCL in recent years – both teams have drawn the two finalists in the first-round last year, Avaldsnes falling at the first hurdle again this year at the hands of last year’s semi-finalist, Barcelona – they’re better than their results suggest. With this in mind the tie will be harder for the Citizens than first glance would suggest, having already won the league title, LSK can at least field a weakened squad in the league ahead of the first leg and will be determined to find a way past the WSL champions.
Big dogs reap the value of seeding
Reigning champions Lyon may well be dreading their upcoming trip to Kazygurt with over 3,000 miles separating the two teams it’s the longest trip of the draw but the two are similarly as far apart in terms of quality. Boasting stronger home form, BIIK will do all they can to keep Lyon out in Kazakhstan though are set to face an onslaught in France – arguably one worse than they faced in Glasgow.
Highly regarded as being one of the best in the world alongside Lyon, Wolfsburg have similarly been given a slightly less stressful draw, again coming up against a team who’ve just won their domestic league. A generous win over Atleti saw WOB through to the last sixteen without much of a sweat broken and the German double-winners look set to ease past a Fiorentina team that haven’t quite found their best so far this season – though the tie is far from settled.
After a surprisingly win in Switzerland, Lithuanian university team, Gintra have fast learned that no good deed goes unpunished as they have been given one of the worst possible draws, having been pitted against Barcelona. Even having picked up a number of injuries in recent days, Barcelona look set to slip past the team from Šiauliai, the Catalans in unstoppable form of late.
The final tie is that of Brescia and Montpellier, both runner’s up of their respective leagues last season, the Italians better versed with the rigors of Champions League football having appeared in last three editions.
Although this is similarly MHSC’s fourth season in Europe they’ve had a punctuated absence over the last decade, last seen in 2009-10 when they reached the quarters before losing to Swedish big dogs, Umeå. A far different team to that or the one who reached the semi-final of the 2005-06 UEFA Women’s Cup, Montpellier’s youthful team could be enough to knock them off course.
As for Brescia, the Leonesse have seen their own departures since their last season in the UWCL – their squad gently picked apart by the emergence of Fiorentina and Juventus – but as was shown against Ajax they remain a team that can deal with big European nights. Arguably the hardest match-up to predict the tie promises to be an engrossing watch.
Draw in full
Sparta Praha vs Linköping
Gintra Universitetas vs Barcelona
Chelsea vs Rosengård
LSK vs Manchester City
Brescia vs Montpellier
BIIK Kazygurt vs Olympique Lyonnais
Fiorentina vs VfL Wolfsburg
Stjarnan vs Slavia Praha
The first legs will be played over the 8 and 9 November with the return legs played on the 15 and 16 November.