Champions League Preview
Knockout rounds of the 2018/19 UEFA Champions League starts today, with Lyon hoping for an unprecedented fourth title win in a row. Will they succeed?
2018 marks the 17th UEFA Women's Champions League: 17 years, 17 finals and only seven different winners. Current holders Olympique Lyonnaise top the chart having won an impressive five times, and they’re hoping to take the trophy home for a sixth time in the history of the tournament, as they did on the 24th of May this year.
Much of the clubs success can be attributed to current president Jean-Michel Aulas, who has overseen the team in becoming one of the most influential in the world and arguably the best in Europe. There’s no doubt that Aulas’ conviction in female football as well as long running professional contracts for the players has contributed in a big way to their success. Full-time contracts aren’t a given – not every player participating in the UEFA Womens Champions League has one. The Italian teams, Fiorentina Women’s F.C and A.C.F. Brescia Calcio Feminile, are non-professional, meaning football is just a small part of the athlete’s daily lives as they work and study alongside their sporting commitments. In fact, the majority of the teams in the first round are not on fully professional contracts, so it would be fair to argue that the obvious differences between those team doesn’t just lie in their skills but in the financial support and equal treatment by clubs, effecting their ability to train and perform at the top level.
We have seen various teams leveling up their game in part by making their players pro over the Champions League history, making Lyon’s road to victory a little harder each year, and it’s evident when you see which teams consistently push through to the final rounds. With the recent restructuring of the FAWSL in the UK, making tier one fully professional, this year is set to be no different, and whilst there’s still a way to go to level the playing field across Europe, the financial gap is steadily decreasing.
The first leg of 32 rounds begins today, and whilst Lyon will be fighting hard to protect their title, we’ll be seeing strong challengers in last years runners up Wolfsburg, as well as Chelsea, Manchester City, Montpellier and Linköping.
The 2019 final will be held in Budapest – this is the first time since the final began play as a single match that a host city for the Women's Champions League final is not automatically assigned by which city won the bid to host the men's Champions League final.
Teams have been awarded prize money for the past eight years to quarter and semi-finalists, and the winners who receive €250,000. For comparison, the current men’s Champions League prize money is set at €19,000,000.
For all the essential info you need on match dates, keep scrolling.
France → Olympique de Lyon and Paris Saint Germain
Germany → Vfl Wolfsburg and FC Bayern München
England → Mancherster City Women’s F.C. and Chelsea Women’s F.C.
Sweden → Linköping F.C. and F.C. Rosengard
Spain → F.C. Barcelona and Atlético de Madrid Feminino
Italy → Fiorentina Women’s F.C. and Juventus Women
Norway → Avaldsnes Idrettslag and LSK Kvinner
North Europe → F.C. Honka Naiset (FIN) / Fortuna Hjorring and Brondby IF (DNK) / A.F.C. Ajax Vrouwen (NLD) / Þór/KA (ISL) / Glasgow City F.C. (SCO) / Gintra Universitetas (LIT) / WFC Zhytlobud-1 Kharkiv (UKR) / Ryazan VDV and Zvezda 2005 Perm (RUS)
Middle and South Europe → F.C. Zürich Frauen (CH) / St. Pölten (AUT) / AC Sparta Praha and SK Slavia Praha Zeny (CZE) / SFK 2000 Sarajevo (BIH) / BIIK Kazygurt (KAZ) / Barcelona Football Academy (CYP) / ZFK Spartak Subotica (SRB)
Round of 32
1st leg: 12/13 September
2nd leg: 26/27 September
Round of 16 (predicted dates)
1st leg: 17/18 October
2nd leg: 31 October/1 November
1st leg: 20/21 March
2nd leg: 27/28 March
1st leg: 20/21 April
2nd leg: 27/28 April
18 May in Budapest