Although we are nearing the business end of the 2015 Women’s Super League season, the excitement was cranked up a notch in Nyon on Wednesday when both champions Liverpool and FA Cup winners Chelsea found out who they would be playing in the first round of the 2015/16 Uefa Women’s Champions League.
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Unseeded for the draw, Emma Hayes’ side were drawn against Scottish champions Glasgow City – who were beaten at the quarter-final stage against Paris Saint-Germain last season. Liverpool, one of the 16 seeded teams, were matched against Italian Cup winners Brescia.
Just 11 days after they face off at the Select Security Stadium in the penultimate game of the season, Liverpool and Chelsea will travel for their first match in knockout stage of Europe’s elite competition.
“We’ve just looked at the dates and it’s going to be difficult,” Liverpool boss Matt Beard told The Offside Rule after Thursday’s draw. “With the Continental Cup knockout games, we could end up playing five times in 18 days.”
Obviously delighted to be in the competition, it is clear that the FA WSL match committee are not high on Beard’s Christmas card list. He admitted that it would affect Chelsea, too, but a trip to Glasgow seems less daunting than a journey to Italy.
The Liverpool boss knows it could have been much worse – the Merseyside club avoided trips to Minsk in Belarus, Romania and Kazakhstan. That doesn’t take anything away from backlog of fixtures that could harm his side’s success in any of the three competitions.
The last round of WSL fixtures will be played on October the 4th, with the first leg against Brescia to be played just a few days later of the 7/8th of the month. The semi-finals of the Continental Cup will be played the following weekend, with the Italian side arriving in Widnes for the second leg on either the 14th or the 15th.
Although any decision is at least six weeks away, Beard admitted that he may have to drop some players in the build-up, just to make sure his team are ready to compete against a tough opponent.
Italy reached the play-off final of the Uefa 2015 World Cup qualifying campaign, beaten 3-2 by the Netherlands on aggregate. Midfielder Valentina Cernoia played in both legs for the Azzuri, and with three goals and four assists in 12 games, she will be a danger, as will striker Cristiana Girelli.
The 25-year-old striker scored four goals in 11 appearances for her country and has previous experience in the competition for Brescia and Verona.
Unlike Liverpool, Chelsea go into the two-legged tie against Glasgow City with a good background of knowledge about their Scottish opponents.
“We had a pre-season trip to Glasgow this year so we feel like we know what to expect from them,” Emma Hayes told the official Chelsea website after the draw. “They have a good pedigree in this competition and have survived to the latter stages a number of times so we’re certainly not going to be underestimating them.
“We’ll prepare for the game in the way we always do but obviously now we have to think about winning the tie over two legs; so that will be the challenge for us as we move into this competition for the first time. It’s an exciting draw because we know their stadium, we know a fair bit about their squad and hopefully, that will help us in the tie.”
The next four weeks will be crucial for both sides. Chelsea could go into the competition as WSL champions, but for Beard and his Liverpool Ladies, the reality is that they are currently more worried about the teams below them, rather than catching their rivals above.
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