Women's Champions League quarter-final previews: Frankfurt resume defence of title
The UEFA Women's Champions League quarter-finals begin this week - we take a look at the matches and offer ones to watch as well as predictions.
Wolfsburg (GER) v Brescia (ITA)
Wolfsburg have been on fine form during the winter break, trouncing Arsenal 3-0 in a behind-closed-doors friendly, and they made it to the quarter-finals by beating English double-winners Chelsea in the last-16. They’re tucked in second place domestically – and go into their Champions League match after a juicy Bundesliga clash with fellow quarter-finalists Frankfurt, beating them 3-1.
One to watch: Midfielder Caroline Graham Hansen of Norway is scoring the goals for them in the Champions League – and scored two on Sunday against Frankfurt.
Brescia will go into this as underdogs, but underdogs on a wave of confidence, leading Serie A and looking solid in the tournament so far. They also beat an English team during this campaign, getting past 2014 WSL champions Liverpool in the last-32. Interestingly, they also have a new signing with a WSL background – full-back Paige Williams, once of Everton and part of the England Under-23s set-up.
One to watch: Daniela Sabatino averages almost a goal a game throughout her career, including at international level.
Prediction: Wolfsburg at a canter.
Wolfsburg v Brescia is LIVE on Eurosport 1 from 16:45 on Wednesday 23rd March.
FFC Frankfurt (GER, holders) v Rosengard (SWE)
Defending WCL holders Frankfurt have just given caretaker manager Matt Ross a permanent deal running until the end of next season; he had initially taken the role on an interim basis after Colin Bell left at the end of 2015. They have plenty of strength in their squad, packed full of Germany internationals. Domestically they're some way behind Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich, though, and Wolfsburg’s comprehensive win at the weekend will surely have knocked their confidence a touch.
One to watch: Dzsenifer Maroszan can turn a game in a moment – as her Germany manager Silvia Neid knows, making good use of her during last summer’s World Cup.
Rosengard made an appearance in England during the month of February, playing Manchester City in a friendly and losing 3-1. Like the English WSL, the Swedish league runs over the summer, so the Champions League quarter-finals come before they actually resume their domestic campaign - thus it's tough to assess how successful they might be.
Prediction: Frankfurt to edge this.
Anita Asante in England action in 2013AFP
Lyon (FRA) v Slavia Praha (CZE)
Lyon have been scoring hatfuls of goals and have plenty of famous names on show - anyone who watched last year's Women's World Cup (or the tournaments before) will recognise the names of Wendie Renard, Sarah Bouhaddi, Eugenie Le Sommer, Louisa Necib and Elodie Thomis of France.
One to watch: Lyon also boast the legendary Swedish striker Lotta Schelin, who’s been with the club for almost a decade now, averaging more than a goal a game. Yes, you read that right. She also holds the Sweden goalscoring record with 80 to her credit so far.
Slavia are just back after the lengthy Czech winter break. They compete in the eight-team First League, and despite a belting goal difference of +51 (at the time of writing) they're still only second, just behind Sparta Praha.
One to watch: The experienced Petra Divisova continues to lead the line, with three goals in the Champions League so far this season.
Prediction: There’ll be goals in this one – Lyon to progress.
Barcelona (ESP) v Paris Saint-Germain (FRA)
Barcelona are coming to the end of the Primera League, pushing Athletic Bilbao all the way, but only managing a draw against them at home at the end of February. It looks like Barca will not be wrapping up their fifth domestic title in a row this year.
One to watch: The goals are spread fascinatingly through the team so far this season, but Jennifer Hermoso always promises to score from the front.
PSG have lost Kosovare Asllani to the lures of Manchester City, but will be confident that they’ll manage to progress; they were finalists last season and will expect to repeat that achievement, particularly with Cristiane on blistering goalscoring form.
One to watch: Anja Mittag of Germany brings her stellar track record to the PSG squad; she’s already won the Champions League with previous club Turbine Potsdam, is a three-time European champion and, of course, is a World Cup winner.
Prediction: Paris Saint-Germain to dominate.
Anja Mittag scoring against Orebro in the round of 16Reuters