The primary legs of the Girls’s Champions League semi-finals are performed this weekend as Chelsea host Barcelona at Stamford Bridge on Saturday afternoon, whereas Arsenal are away to Wolfsburg on Sunday.
The English duo have confronted their opponents earlier than. Chelsea capitulated to a 4-0 defeat by the hands of Barcelona two years in the past of their first Champions League last look.
Wolfsburg compelled Arsenal to exit the competitors on the quarter-final stage final season, having beforehand received the higher of them within the competitors 10 years in the past.
However will the English golf equipment have the ability to supersede their European counterparts this time round?
Have Chelsea developed since their Champions League last defeat to Barcelona?
There have been many the reason why issues didn’t work out the way in which Emma Hayes needed them to in that notorious loss to Barcelona two years in the past. From the early personal purpose scored by Melanie Leupolz to an lack of ability to suppress Caroline Graham Hansen, it was clear the squad wanted fortifying in a number of departments.
June got here, and with it six summer season signings assigned to fill the cavities within the squad. Eve Perisset and Kadeisha Buchanan slotted into defence, Jelena Cankovic and Katerina Svitkova acted as midfield back-ups, and the renaissance of Lauren James accomplished the transformation.
Chelsea lastly had the squad to compete within the Champions League. Nonetheless, they nonetheless wanted to determine one of the best system to go with all of the gamers, and Hayes has spent a big portion of this season doing that.
The 4-2-3-1 formation that utilises each full-backs on the wing and focuses on a extra possession-based type of soccer has grow to be the popular means of taking part in. Ball-carriers like James and Guro Reiten have helped facilitate that within the absence of playmakers Fran Kirby and Pernille Tougher.
Groups have discovered methods to fight it by focusing on Chelsea’s central defenders, an space Hayes has been compelled to fiddle with by damage absences.
It has meant the 2 midfield pivots, possible Erin Cuthbert and Leupolz, have performed extra unorthodox positions too.
Has it labored? Principally. Will it work this weekend? Maybe. For all of Chelsea’s depleted midfield creativity, they nonetheless have a Sam Kerr to bail them out.
They may want her and the remainder of the Bridge to drag collectively forward of a monstrous second leg in Spain subsequent week.
How will damage absences impression the Blues’ defensive set-up?
The rumours suggesting Hayes might be with out Millie Vibrant and Buchanan is not going to settle any nerves for Chelsea followers.
It means the brunt of the defensive duties will possible fall on Magda Eriksson, with Maren Mjelde becoming a member of her on the coronary heart of the central defence. Perisset and Jess Carter will take up the full-back roles.
Niamh Charles can play barely additional upfield, funnelling possession to James and Reiten, whereas Leupolz and Cuthbert dig their heels into the midfield.
Chelsea’s strategy will purpose to cowl the losses of the gamers who proceed to observe from the sidelines.
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Tougher has solely simply been introduced again into the fold after a considerable spell on the sidelines nursing a hamstring damage. On the identical time, Kirby has been absent since mid-January.
Cankovic and Leupolz are nonetheless grappling with health points, which has made it more and more tough for the Blues to carry a artistic power to the centre of the pitch.
If Barca can shut these pathways to Kerr with a high-pressing strategy, it may grow to be difficult for the hosts to see any motion within the last third.
How can the hosts exploit Barcelona’s weaknesses?
In 25 matches throughout this home marketing campaign, Jonatan Giraldez’s aspect have scored an astounding 105 objectives, permitting simply 5, as they created a 13-point hole on the high of Liga F.
With Chelsea’s central defence needing extra sturdiness, there may be an growing chance they may need to outscore their opponents if they’re to return away from Stamford Bridge with a bonus.
Permitting James to play untethered in a shadow-striker function the place she will dribble rampantly and join with Kerr could also be one of the simplest ways of bringing that about.
Ann-Katrin Berger may additionally play an enormous half. The Germany worldwide has stored three clear sheets in her 5 European appearances this time period, serving to Chelsea to one of the best document on this season’s Girls’s Champions League (6).
She produced a mammoth performance against Lyon in the last round, saving Wendie Renard and Lindsey Horan’s penalties to safe her aspect’s development to the semis.
Barcelona might be eager to check her from the sport’s early moments. Whether or not it’s Asisat Oshoala, who has scored 19 objectives within the league and Europe this season, or Aitana Bonmati, Maria Leon and Fridolina Rolfo, there is a humiliation of riches readily available for the Spanish aspect to torment Berger.
The excellent news for Berger is that probably the most problematic participant won’t be on the pitch. Alexia Putellas, the back-to-back Ballon d’Or Feminin winner, is within the last phases of her restoration from an anterior cruciate ligament tear and is uncertain to start out on Saturday.
Will Arsenal have discovered something from final 12 months’s exit?
Arsenal had no option to fight Jill Roord the final time they met Wolfsburg in March 2022. They could have narrowly succumbed to defeat within the first leg, however there was no escape from the chilly actuality they might once more fall brief on the second time asking.
Roord’s efforts, mixed with an personal purpose from Leah Williamson, confirmed that. It’s value mentioning that, on the time, the Gunners have been additionally lacking Beth Mead and Lia Walti.
Positive, Eidevall’s aspect have spent the final 5 months or so performing properly sufficient with out their key starters, however they might want to recollect simply how harshly they have been sentenced after they final squared as much as Wolfsburg with a depleted assault.
There wanted to be extra creativity to assist battle the swathes of opposition assault. Nonetheless, lessening the load on the defence was an unattainable activity as Svenja Huth on the appropriate wing drew Steph Catley out large and left an enormous hole to take advantage of on numerous events.
The sensible Lena Oberdorf used that house greater than as soon as, delivering a sequence of threatening crosses to problem the Arsenal defence. Discovering a option to suppress her skills might be essential.
How will Arsenal’s depleted assault fare towards Wolfsburg?
Wolfsburg received the higher of Arsenal within the 2012/13 semi-finals, on their option to the primary of two titles, after which once more final 12 months within the quarter-finals. Failing to beat the German aspect twice has left the Gunners wanting in a number of areas, compounded by the damage absences of Mead, Vivianne Miedema, Kim Little and Williamson.
If there may be any respite for Arsenal, they’ve spent all season practising the artwork of successful whereas being short-staffed, and in elements it has labored. Mix that with the very fact Catley and Caitlin Foord may each be again, then there may be nonetheless lots to be hopeful about.
There could be extra excellent news too. Alexandra Popp and Marina Hegering, key cogs within the Wolfsburg attacking set-up, are uncertain to start out on Sunday, whereas Lena Lattwein is unquestionably out till the tip of the season with a damaged collarbone.
It means we’ll possible see Wolfsburg arrange in a 4-2-3-1 formation, with Oberdorf and Huth because the midfield holders, whereas Jule Model, Roord, Sveindis Jonsdottir and Ewa Pajor make up the assault.
Arsenal, in the meantime, must delve into their squad and can possible discipline a 4-3-3 system that sees Lotte Wubben-Moy pivot the again 4.