With tickets for the UEFA Women's Champions League final on 23 May at Chelsea FC's Stamford Bridge going on sale tomorrow, UEFA.com profiles the eight hopefuls hoping to lift the trophy in London.
Quarter-finals: 20/21 & 27/28 March
FCF Juvisy Essonne (FRA) v Göteborg FC (SWE)
Olympique Lyonnais (FRA, holders) v FC Malmö (SWE)
Arsenal LFC (ENG) v ASD Torres CF (ITA)
VfL Wolfsburg (GER) v FC Rossiyanka (RUS)
Semi-finals: 13/14 & 20/21 April
Arsenal/Torres v Wolfsburg/Rossiyanka
Lyon/Malmö v Juvisy/Göteborg
Final (Stamford Bridge): 23 May
Winner semi-final 1 v Winner semi-final 2
FCF Juvisy Essonne (FRA)
Best performance: quarter-finals 2011
Quarter-final record: W0 L1
Top scorer: Gaëtane Thiney 2
Lyon are the dominant side in France but Juvisy are part of a strong chasing pack including Montpellier Hérault SC and Paris Saint-Germain FC, so even qualifying for Europe is no mean feat. They currently lie third, 11 points behind Lyon and six adrift of PSG. Juvisy were boosted last week by the signing of PSG midfielder Laure Lepailleur and Ukraine's former Rossiyanka goalkeeper Iryna Zvarych, adding to a squad including France striker Gaëtane Thiney and Sandrine Soubeyrand, the 39-year-old defender now within sight of a 200th Les Bleues cap. Their path to the last eight has been far from easy, drawing away against both FC Zürich and Stabæk FK then winning by a one-goal margin at home. Potsdam beat Juvisy in their previous quarter-final appearance.
Göteborg FC (SWE)
Best performance: quarter-finals 2012
Quarter-final record: W0 L1
Top scorer: Christen Press, Olivia Schough 3
Only fourth in the 2012 Damallsvenskan, Göteborg need to win this competition to return next season. Narrowly ousted by Arsenal in the last eight on their debut a year ago, Göteborg knocked out Fortuna Hjørring in the round of 16 for a second season running, but four saves at the death from Kristin Hammarström were all that kept them from an away goals defeat. Göteborg, like their opponents, have been busy in the transfer market, signing Sweden striker Jessica Landström (a runner-up last season with 1. FFC Frankfurt) to replace departing Christen Press, the American so crucial to their run this far, as was outoing midfielder Ingrid Wells. Hammarström's sister Marie, a defender, has also arrived while Yael Averbuch and England midfielder Anita Asante, who all arrived from the United States in 2012 like Wells and Press, remain.
Olympique Lyonnais (FRA, holders)
Best performance: winners 2011, 2012
Quarter-final record: W5 L0
Top scorer: Louisa Necib, Laëtitia Tonazzi 4
As if Lyon were not strong enough, the arrival of US winger Megan Rapinoe and Japan forward Shinobu Ohno, bolsters a squad as strong as any women's club has ever fielded. Already they were spearheaded by Sweden striker Lotta Schelin and France playmaker Louisa Necib, with Camille Abily (league top scorer on 16 goals) and Sonia Bompastor also among an all-star lineup, while coach Patrice Lair recently extended his contract. Having never failed to reach the semi-finals since their 2007/08 debut, Lyon made it two titles in a row when they beat 1. FFC Frankfurt 2-0 in Munich last May. Indeed, Lyon have appeared in all three finals under the UEFA Women's Champions League banner, and with 23 unanswered goals in the competition so far this term are the team to beat once again. Their record in the French league this season reads played 13, won 13, scored 88, conceded four, and at the weekend they beat Chinese side Shanghai FC 5-0 in a friendly with Rapinoe on target with a free-kick.
FC Malmö (SWE)
Best performance: semi-finals 2004
Quarter-final record: W1 L1
Top scorer: Anja Mittag, Katrine Veje 3
Their two-year reign as Swedish champions may have been ended by Tyresö FF in early November but Malmö – like Arsenal already qualified for 2013/14 – could yet be the first side from their nation to take the European title since Umeå IK's reign in 2002/03 and 2003/04, despite having to face Lyon. The return of Netherlands striker Manon Melis, league top scorer for Malmö in 2010 and 2011 before spending last year at Linköpings FC, is a huge boost for new coach Jonas Eidevall, who has succeeded Peter Moberg, and there may be more signings to come. They beat ASD Verona CF home and away in the round of 16 and the addition last winter of Anja Mittag from Potsdam proved a masterstroke both on the domestic scene and in the UEFA Women's Champions League, where her three goals have taken her career European tally to 39 – just one off the current record. With Switzerland striker Ramona Bachmann, Danish winger Katrine Veje, Icelandic midfielder Sara Björk Gunnarsdóttir and New Zealand defender Ali Riley also feature in a cosmopolitan squad.
Arsenal LFC (ENG)
Best performance: winners 2007
Quarter-final record: W5 L5
Top scorer: Jennifer Beattie 4
Arsenal have also been forced into a change of management after Laura Harvey decided to join Seattle Reign FC in the new American NWSL, a successor yet to be appointed. In their last competitive games under Harvey they knocked out fellow former champions 1. FFC Turbine Potsdam in the round of 16. They have missed out on the last eight of this 12 season-old competition just once, when Fulham LFC were England's representatives in 2003/04. Having retained the English title again last year, thus already booking a European place for next term, they only led Potsdam 2-1 ahead of the away leg but Kelly Smith ended an injury-hit 2012 – in which she returned to the Gunners alongside Alex Scott and Gemma Davison – with a hat-trick in a 4-3 triumph in Germany, some consolation for their semi-final exit to Frankfurt last term. The squad has the cream of English, Scottish, Welsh and Irish talent, with goalkeeper Emma Byrne having made a competition-record 67 appearances, part of an all-Arsenal top four completed by outfield club-mates Ciara Grant (62), Jayne Ludlow (59) and Rachel Yankey (52).
ASD Torres CF (ITA)
Best performance: quarter-finals 2010
Quarter-final record: W0 L1
Top scorer: Patrizia Panico 8
The first Italian quarter-finalists since they themselves made it in 2009/10, Torres came through tricky ties against Apollon Limassol LFC and CFF Olimpia Cluj thanks in no small part to the goals of Patrizia Panico. Her hat-trick overturned a 2-0 deficit to win the first leg at Apollon, and the 37-year-old's tally of eight is the best of the knockout phase, though she is still three behind the Cypriot side's Laura Rus, who has 11 including qualifying, which all the quarter-finalists were excused. Torres, beaten by Lyon on their previous last-eight appearance, boast not only Panico – scorer of 30 competitive goals already this season – but other key Italy players Elisabetta Tona, Giulia Domenichetti and Sandy Iannella. They are on course for another Italian title, their 1-1 draw at UPC Tavagnacco on 5 January the only points they have dropped this season.
VfL Wolfsburg (GER)
Best performance: first entry
Quarter-final record: n/a
Top scorer: Conny Pohlers 6
Germany's Frankfurt, Potsdam and FCR 2001 Duisburg all lifted the trophy in their first European season and Wolfsburg, the sole Frauen Bundesliga survivors, hope to emulate that. Though debutants, Wolfsburg began the competition among the favourites after significant investment that has brought together a squad including German internationals Luisa Wensing, Verena Faisst, Josephine Henning, Viola Odebrecht, Nadine Kessler, Lena Goeslling, Alexandra Popp (currently sidelined with a foot injury), Martina Müller and Conny Pohlers. A European champion with Frankfurt and Potsdam, six goals this season made Pohlers the first player to score 40 goals in UEFA women's club competition – in just 34 appearances. At the winter break Wolfsburg lead the German league, four points clear of Potsdam.
FC Rossiyanka (RUS)
Best performance: quarter-finals 2008, 2012
Quarter-final record: W0 L2
Top scorer: Natalia Shlyapina 3
Now coached by German Achim-Matthias Feifel, formerly in charge at Hamburger SV, the core of Rossiyanka's team are Russia goalkeeper Elvira Todua, defender Anna Kozhnikova, midfielder Olga Petrova, South African international Nompumelelo Nyandeni, Brazilian Fabiana and Swedish striker Linnea Liljegärd. Liljegärd's compatriot Sofia Jakobsson has left, and Feifel has hinted at signings, but they still have two months until their winter break ends against Wolfsburg. AC Sparta Praha ran Rossiyanka close in the round of 16 as Rossiyanka made this stage for the third time, German duo Frankfurt and Potsdam having beaten them in their previous appearances.
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