Women’s Champions League: Are Chelsea and Arsenal ready to challenge on European stage and topple Lyon?

It’s a scorching night in Turin in mid-May. Amandine Henry has simply ignited a historic Champions League remaining with a jaw-dropping opening purpose inside the primary six minutes. It led to a, considerably inevitable, Lyon rout.

Not for the primary time, Les Fenottes had been topped European Champions – a well-recognized sight to all those that often observe proceedings on the continent. Lyon’s dominance is as predictable as it’s impenetrable.

Even a heavily-tipped Barcelona facet boasting a myriad of highly-decorated stars – a few of Europe’s most notable expertise – failed to make an imprint on Lyon’s well-established area. It was a sometimes one-sided affair. Lyon have dominated supreme over Europe for practically a decade now, profitable eight of the previous 10 trophies on provide.

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Vivianne Miedema celebrates her profitable purpose as Arsenal edge out Ajax in Champions League qualifying

It’s a document that few ladies’s sides will ever come shut to emulating. They are the feminine equal of Real Madrid within the males’s competitors. Europe is their metier.

French newspaper L’Equipe have even been identified to jokingly dismiss the truth that OL Groupe possesses a males’s workforce, such is the all-conquering success of their ladies’s facet.

There are, nonetheless, rising indicators that the competitors hole is narrowing. Change is within the air. A attainable coming of age that would serve to disturb and even threaten the established hierarchy as Women’s Super League golf equipment pay nearer consideration to the very many advantages of European rivalry. Financial incentives alone are encouragement sufficient, with English golf equipment historically working on a lot smaller budgets than these of their European counterparts.

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Arsenal head coach Jonas Eidevall says document attendances are displaying extra individuals are changing into enthusiastic about ladies’s soccer

  • Arsenal Women beat Ajax to qualify for Champions League

The WSL can solely brag one European title to date – Arsenal in 2007 – however England’s prime tier has been making strikes. Domestically, the league is the strongest it ever has been.

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Internationally, the Lionesses demonstrated how the power of the league interprets at Europe’s prime desk. Only one in every of Sarina Wiegman’s triumphant 23-player squad – Rachel Daly of Houston Dash – performed their soccer outdoors the WSL within the season continuing Euro 2022. Daly has by the way made fairly the splash since being lured again to the English recreation from America this season, scoring three targets for Aston Villa in back-to-back wins.

Centralised advertising, common TV protection and elevated funding have all contributed to the WSL’s current success, however one pertinent query stays, can English golf equipment now lower it on the European stage?

Will one in every of Chelsea or Arsenal – England’s 2022-23 representatives – have the ability to break with custom and outshine Champions League regulars when it actually counts?

Emma Hayes’ Chelsea are one of many chasing pack. They misplaced out to Lyon on the semi-final stage in 2019, however solely got here up marginally brief. Earlier that very same season, Sam Kerr, who’s now a revered title if discovered on an opposition teamsheet, selected to be part of Chelsea over Olympique Lyonnais Feminine.

Three seasons have handed since then and the rising perception is that Chelsea are actually primed to compete. When they made it to the 2021 remaining – the identical 12 months their male counterparts hoisted the UEFA Champions League trophy in Portugal – their marketing campaign was hit with irregularities due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The recreation was performed behind closed doorways. Players had been overawed by the enormity of the event, having by no means skilled it earlier than. An unlucky case of stage fright.

Then-owner Roman Abramovich visited the Chelsea dressing room within the fast aftermath of that defeat to Barcelona because the squad pledged to struggle for a return to the Champions League remaining. “We’ll be back here,” they vowed.

The following marketing campaign was tinged with heavier disappointment having not reached the knockout part, however Hayes’ facet will now contemplate themselves higher geared up to ship on their two-year-old promise.

The Hayes period, unrivalled in home circles, would attain its crowning glory if capped by European success. No time like the current. Chelsea have added properly in the summertime window and have a squad that may rival most continental outfits. Not to point out in addition they boast 4 newly ordained European champions. It’s been over a decade since Hayes begun constructing Chelsea Women from the underside up and to date it is just the Champions League crown that has evaded her clutches. Time to full the set?

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Highlights of the Barclays Women’s Super League match between Chelsea and West Ham

When quizzed about Chelsea’s possibilities, Hayes advised Sky Sports: “We’ve just got to get better. We’re talking about a competition that no English team has won for several years. There’s a reason for that, we haven’t been near the top teams and our job is to close the gap. We’ve got to do that by making sure every day on the grass we’re better. For us to close the gap, we’re going to have to be smarter against those teams.”

Arsenal additionally started to flex their European muscle final time period, however in the end got here up brief when introduced with one in every of Europe’s different indomitable forces, Wolfsburg. The north London facet truly rank second within the all-time competitors charts for video games received and targets scored within the Champions League, behind guess who? Lyon. Nonetheless, they’ve historic pedigree.

But a double-edged sword applies right here. As the WSL will get more and more aggressive, it turns into more durable to juggle a number of competitions at full tilt. On the flip facet, it additionally serves nearly as good preparation as English groups try to rise to the requirements set by the likes of Lyon, Barca and co.

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Check out Arsenal’s star participant Vivianne Miedema’s greatest targets from final season

There has been an enormous inflow of European gamers to the WSL this summer season. It seems to be the vacation spot of selection. Not solely does that strengthen the validity of the league however it is usually consultant of the truth that the WSL is ready to rival every other division, or European membership, for the sport’s greatest expertise.

Increased publicity, rising attendances, first-rate services and expansive protection are all the explanation why the WSL is essentially enticing. And its present leaders, Arsenal, will hope that that is the season they will lead the cost on a number of fronts.

Arsenal captain Kim Little is aware of stern checks await Jonas Eidevall’s facet on their European travels this season.

“We’ve got ourselves up to a point,” she stated. “We’ve been more consistent in the Champions League in recent seasons – that’s the first stepping-stone but now we want to compete to win. For us the intensity level is higher, and we need to have 11 players on the pitch who are absolutely at the top of their game in order to compete.”

When requested if Lyon and Barcelona are too tough to overcome, she merely replied: “I don’t agree.”

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