The second legs of the quarter-finals of the Women’s Champions League take place tonight, with Chelsea and Manchester City hoping to become the first two British sides to be represented in the semi-finals at the same time.
Linköpings v Manchester City (28th March, 17:00)
Manchester City head into the second leg in a relatively comfortable position, following their 2-0 home win last week.
Although Linköpings had Lisa Lantz sent off during the game, City were in complete control throughout the first leg. The sending off was part of an incident that led to City’s opening goal – when the defender handled the ball in the area – before Nikita Parris despatched the resulting spot-kick.
A looping header from Jane Ross put the WSL 1 side 2-0 up, but Georgia Stanway was unfortunate to hit the bar later on which would have surely put the tie to bed. Captain Steph Houghton proved an important figure after her return from injury, while Tessel Middag came off the bench to make her first appearance in over ten months after recovering from a cruciate ligament injury.
England midfielder Izzy Christiansen missed the first leg through suspension but she is available for the return fixture. Nick Cushing may opt to again rotate his side from their FA Cup victory over Sunderland at the weekend, where they were forced into playing extra time. Steph Houghton, Jill Scott, Keira Walsh and Nikita Parris are all expected to feature this evening.
Linköpings will be heading into the match hopeful of overturning their two-goal deficit, having been fortunate to not be further behind. The Swedish champions will be looking to former City player Kosovare Asllani and England striker Natasha Dowie to give them the advantage in the second leg.
With the draw already made for the semi-finals, the winner of the tie will face either reigning champions Lyon or Spanish giants Barcelona in the next round.
Chelsea v Montpellier (28th March, 19:05)
The Blues are in a comfortable position ahead of their second leg home fixture, after they secured a 2-0 win at Montpellier last week.
The Londoners may count themselves lucky to escape from the first leg in France with a two-goal lead, with the hosts hitting the woodwork on two occasions. The result was quite harsh on Montpellier, who despite the scoreline, ended the match with more attempts on goal and arguably created the better chances.
Chelsea’s goals came from an assured finish from Ji So-Yun and a header courtesy of Erin Cuthbert. Emma Hayes’ side almost had the tie sealed, but Ramona Bachmann struck the post. A resolute defensive performance from the Blues proved the catalyst for their first leg success.
Although Chelsea have a large squad at their disposal, Emma Hayes has criticised the scheduling of the women’s league, after her side was forced to play a WSL 1 match against Reading just three days ago.
The Blues’ boss said: “We should help the two teams in the Champions League. When you schedule games either side of that Wednesday window then I think you are hamstringing them.
She continued: “Montpellier in particular – and I’m sure it’s the same with Linkopings – are sat at home on the couch recovering while we have gone through a bruised battle. If we want English teams to progress then we have to help them a little more.
“English players will improve if they progress to the Champions League final. The last thing you want is a Chelsea or a Man City going out on Wednesday night because they are unable to field a fully-fit team.”
If Chelsea are to make it through to the semi-finals, then they are likely to come against Wolfsburg in the next round, who have knocked them out of the competition two years in a row. Should that fixture arise, Chelsea’s Magdelena Eriksson could come against her partner Pernille Harder for the first time.
Slavia Prague v Wolfsburg (28th March, 17:00)
This is a tie that is surely already over, with the Czech side looking to regain some pride after their 5-0 humbling in Germany last week. It was always going to be an uphill battle for Slavia against Wolfsburg, but the difference in class really shone through in the first leg.
The Frauen Bundesliga champions were in cruise control throughout the match and had the tie pretty much sealed by half-time, going in 3-0 up at the break. A goal from the excellent Pernille Harder put Wolfsburg ahead early on, before Caroline Hansen and Sara Bjork Gunnarsdottir added a further two. It didn’t get any easier for the Czechs in the second half, with Harder and substitute Ewa Pajor putting the result beyond any doubt.
Wolfsburg beat MSV Duisburg 1-0 at home on Sunday in the league and will surely look to rest some of their squad ahead of the second leg in Prague. As for Slavia, they haven’t played since the match in Germany last week so they will be coming into the match fresh and looking for revenge.
Barcelona v Lyon (28th March, 18:00)
The reigning champions Lyon come into the second leg of this tie slightly under pressure, after they only managed to secure a narrow 2-1 victory at home last week.
Lyon are the overwhelming favourites to lift the trophy, as they have won the competition two years in a row – but their defence of the title could now be under serious threat.
In their home leg, Lyon largely dominated the tie, with all the stats going in their favour. The French sides dominance was rewarded on the brink of half-time when Lucy Bronze assisted Dzsenifer Marozsan to give them the lead.
With just under twenty minutes to go, Barcelona gave the hosts an almighty scare, as Patricia Guijarro converted an equaliser and gave the Catalonians a crucial away goal. Fortunately for the French champions, Ada Hegerberg popped up seven minutes later with what could be an extremely important winner, to give Lyon a slight advantage.
The first leg set up the return match in Barcelona perfectly, with both teams sure to be confident of progressing through to the semi-finals. Lyon had a break at the weekend, which may give them a fitness edge over the Catalans, who secured a hard-fought 2-1 victory over rivals Madrid CFF on Sunday.
Barcelona’s Toni Duggan and Lyon’s Lucy Bronze will both be hoping that their respective sides can make it through to the final four, where they are likely to come up against their former side Manchester City for a place in the final.