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The UEFA Women’s Champions League round of 16 kicked off on Wednesday. The round features reigning title holders Olympique Lyon facing off against Brondby, Manchester City going up against Fiorentina, and a big match up featuring Chelsea and Atletico Madrid. Second-leg matches in the round will take place starting March 10.
Here’s a look at the matchups, and some key storylines for this week.
Wednesday, March 3
Thursday, March 4
Tuesday, March 9
Several players repressing the Mexican, Canadian and United States women’s national teams will be competing throughout the tournament across several notable clubs. Mexican international Charlyn Corral is with Atletico Madrid (currently recovering from an ACL). Canadians Jordyn Huitema and Ashley Lawrence are with PSG, Kadeisha Buchanan plays for current champion Lyon, Jessie Flemming is on Chelsea, and Janine Becky with Manchester City.
USWNT 2019 World Cup champions Samantha Mewis, Abby Dahlkemper, and Rose Lavelle all play at Manchester City. Top prospect Catarina Macario recently signed with Lyon, and defender Alana Cook currently plays with PSG.
Arguably the most competitive fixture among the eight matches will be Chelsea vs. Atletico Madrid. This will be the first meeting between the two sides in UWCL despite each of the teams competing in Champions League during prior years. Chelsea are currently first in England’s Women’s Super League standings.
Atletico Madrid currently rank third in the Primera Division Femenina. They also have former Blues goalkeeper Hedvig Lindahl running things in net for their current campaign, along with CONMEBOL attackers Deyna Castellanos and Leicy Santos.
Chelsea coach Emma Hayes and the club have long been chasing after a Champions League title that has eluded the club in the past, and to date has one of the strongest rosters assembled with the likes of Pernille Harder, Sam Kerr, Fran Kirby, and Bethany England among the attacking core. Although she insists the mindset to prepare for this match is a similar focus to any match.
“I do have a mindset that you have to train every day like it’s a final, and we take our work seriously here and the players have to apply themselves every week, not just Champions League week,” Hayes said in a press conference. “While there’s always big conversation around Chelsea in Champions League, the realities are we compete for trophies every year. It doesn’t matter which trophy it is we just just want to be competing and getting to finals and winning big games and that’s what we’ve done in the time since I’ve been here.”
Blues defender and English international Millie Bright has been navigating a minor hamstring issue, but is looking forward to the upcoming challenge of facing Atletico early in the competition. Bright credits former NWSL coach Denise Reddy with getting her up to speed.
“I think obviously bring in Denise, one of our technical coaches into the team, we’ve done a lot of just work and a lot of individual bits on a pitch, I think just going the extra mile to be the best,” Bright said. “Don’t think you don’t just get there by chance you have to work for it. So, yeah just really taking up extra detail, and putting in the extra work. But yeah feeling really good in myself, think we’ve had a great run so far. We’ve had some great performances and yeah I think everyone’s full of confidence.”
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