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Paris step up, Chelsea push as knockouts near

As the round of 32 nears, we report on signings for Paris Saint-Germain and the German entrants, Chelsea and Rosengård's title pushes and championships already decided.

Sweden's Lisa Dahlkvist has joined Paris
Sweden's Lisa Dahlkvist has joined Paris ©Getty Images

With less than a month to go until the UEFA Women's Champions League round of 32 begins, we look at the latest signings and domestic form of the leading contenders, plus news of titles decided in the likes of Finland and Iceland.

Last season's runners-up at home and in Europe, Paris Saint-Germain had already been busy this summer, signing Anja Mittag from Rosengård and giving a new contract to Laure Boulleau, but as the transfer deadline approached they stepped up their activity.

First they swooped for Brazil duo Erika and Cristiane, then Paris added Sweden midfielder Lisa Dahlqvist, a 2014 finalist with Tyresö and most recently at Örebro. Paris's new recruits have quickly hit form, Mittag scoring in both their league games so far, as they beat Rodez 5-0 and Soyaux 2-0, with Cristiane also on target on Sunday.

Champions Olympique Lyonnais have also won both their matches, netting 16 unanswered goals, and last week brought in China goalkeeper Wang Fei, who follows Pauline Bremer from Turbine Potsdam, after Sarah Bouhaddi was sidelined until December with a shoulder injury.

Holders FFC Frankfurt, who have lost summer signing TheresaPanfil for six months to a knee cruciate ligament tear in training on Monday, rounded off their transfer business by landing Japan striker Yuki Ogimi from Wolfsburg, whose own heavy summer recruitment was completed when they brought forward the transfer of Switzerland playmaker Ramona Bachmann from Rosengård. The move was originally planned for the winter but happened early due to Ogimi's departure and the news Nadine Kessler requires more knee surgery on the problem that has kept her out for almost a year.

German champions Bayern München have taken Boston Breakers winger Kristie Mewis on loan after a knee injury to Mana Iwabuchi. All three of Germany's European contenders have won their opening two Frauen-Bundesliga fixtures, Bayern signing Sara Däbritz claiming three of their five goals to date.

Chelsea celebrate during their win at Arsenal
Chelsea celebrate during their win at Arsenal©Getty Images

While the German and French seasons are starting, others in Europe are reaching their conclusion. Chelsea, denied the FA Women's Super League title on the final day last term, look on course to go one better after a run of three straight WSL victories since lifting the FA Women's Cup at Wembley on 1 August.

With two matches left, on 26 September at reigning champions Liverpool and at home to Sunderland on 4 October, Chelsea are five points clear of Manchester City, who have a game in hand, and Arsenal (whom the west Londoners beat 2-0 on 23 August). Sunderland are a further point back. Liverpool, however, have seen their two-year reign end and lie sixth, meaning their only realistic route back to Europe for 2016/17 is to win the UEFA Women's Champions League.

Chasing a third straight Damallsvenskan crown after the appointment of new coach Jack Majgaard Jensen and the abrupt exit of Bachmann, Rosengård beat challengers Eskilstuna United 2-1 on 5 August with two goals from recent signing Nataša Andonova but since then have lost the Swedish Cup final 2-0 to Linköping and drawn three of their last five league fixtures. That has allowed Eskilstuna to go two points ahead with five matches to go.

Last season's runners-up Örebro went down 2-1 at Rosengård on Saturday with fresh recruit Josée Bélanger among the scorers for the hosts. Örebro are sixth, and like Liverpool have only a mathematical chance of a top-two finish as they prepare for their European debut.

With six rounds to go, just four points separate the top four in the Supreme League.
Reigning champions Zvezda-2005 lead fellow European entrants Zorkiy by two points. Ryazan are level with the latter team while Rossiyanka, who beat Zvezda 3-1 last Friday, are two points further adrift.

Emma Madsen has been forced to retire
Emma Madsen has been forced to retire©Getty Images

Last season's semi-finalists Brøndby have signed Icelandic forward Dagmar Gunnarsdóttir for the rest of 2015 from Swedish second-division outfit LB 07. She will take the place of Danish international striker Emma Madsen, who has been forced to retire aged 26 after suffering a knee complaint at the end of last term.

Denmark's other perennial European challengers Fortuna Hjørring have welcomed back Nadia Nadim on loan until the end of the year from Sky Blue FC in the United States, where she was club top scorer in 2015. Champions Brøndby head the nascent Danish league table with 13 points from five outings, above Skovbakken and Fortuna.

Perhaps the tie of the round of 32 is Chelsea against Glasgow City, who on Sunday took an important step towards a tenth straight league title. Since his installation as manager in July, Scott Booth has overseen five wins and a draw, and crucially last weekend while they were prevailing 6-0 at Celtic, nearest challengers Hibernian crashed 3-0 at Aberdeen to allow Glasgow to open up a three-point lead with four games left. Glasgow go to Hibernian on 4 October, the weekend before the first leg at Chelsea.

Rosengård's round of 32 opponents PK-35 Vantaa secured a fifth straight championship on Friday with a 2-1 triumph against HJK Helsinki. They had already proved their prowess in the UEFA Women's Champions League qualifying round, scoring 20 goals in their three matches, more than any other side.

Other titles decided
The 2015/16 knockouts may not have begun but already the 2016/17 UEFA Women's Champions League is taking shape besides PK-35's qualification. On Monday Breidablik picked up a record 16th Icelandic title, ten years after their last, halting Stjarnan's two-season reign with a game to spare. Stjarnan now turn their attention to the round of 32 and Zvezda-2005.

have retained the Faroese championship so will extend their record of entering all 16 editions of UEFA women's club competition next season. Also crowned domestically are BIIK-Kazygurt of Kazakhstan (who meet Barcelona in the last 32 this time around) and Latvia's Rīgas FS.