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Women's Champions League quarter-finals: key storylines

Four superb ties await from 22 March: we take a look ahead to the start of the knockout action.

UEFA via Getty Images

The UEFA Women's Champons League returns on 22 March as the quarter-finals resume the road to Turin.

A world record crowd looks likely as holders Barcelona take on Real Madrid while seven-time champions Lyon meet final hosts Juventus, Arsenal take on fellow former winners Wolfsburg and last season's two beaten semi-finalists are paired as Bayern München play Paris Saint-Germain.

Road to Turin

22 & 30 March

Bayern München vs Paris Saint-Germain
Real Madrid vs Barcelona
23 & 31 March
Juventus vs Lyon
Arsenal vs Wolfsburg 

Semi-finals (23/24 April & 30 April/1 May)
1: Real Madrid / Barcelona vs Arsenal / Wolfsburg
2: Juventus / Lyon vs Bayern München / Paris Saint-Germain

Final (21 May) – Juventus Stadium, Turin
Winners semi-final 1 vs Winners semi-final 2

Famous fixture, new setting

Real Madrid vs Barcelona might not have the history or resonance of the men's encounter: the capital club only entered the women's game in 2020 after taking over CD Tacón and despite ending their debut season in second, they were 25 points behind the Blaugrana, who have won all three female Clásicos fairly comfortably. But Madrid's impressive run in their first European season, knocking out Manchester City to make the group stage and easing into the last eight, has earned them a crack at the reigning champions. The second leg will be Barcelona's first game in front of fans at the Camp Nou, having played there behind closed doors in January 2021 against Espanyol, and sold out in January within a few days of tickets going on sale, making a world record crowd for a women's club game likely. Those home fans will hope for a repeat of 13 March, when Barcelona beat Madrid 5-0 in front of a crowd of 5,430, the biggest competitive attendance at the Johan Cruyff Stadium, to retain the Spanish title with six games left.

Coincidentally, Barcelona's first men's European Cup entry in 1959/60 ended with a semi-final tie against Madrid. On that occasion the Merengues, who won both legs, were heading for a fifth straight title; this time Barcelona are the team to beat, favourites to retain the trophy they lifted in style last May. They also have experience in winning all-Spanish quarter-finals, defeating Atlético 1-0 in Bilbao in 2020. Madrid are the first competition debutants to reach the quarter-finals since their round 2 victims City in 2016/17; if like the English team they can advance to the last four, the women's Clásico will have had its first true classic.

London calling again for Wolfsburg

Wolfsburg's Roord set for Arsenal reunion

Injury-hit Wolfsburg looked down and out following their home Matchday 4 loss to Juventus but ended up topping Group A with a 4-0 defeat of Chelsea in their last fixture to eliminate the 2021 runners-up. That took Wolfsburg into a record tenth straight quarter-final and a meeting with another side setting a new mark for this stage: the Gunners are the first to feature 14 times overall in the last eight. In addition to having former Arsenal players Jill Roord and Dominique Janssen in their squad, Wolfsburg are no strangers to visiting London: not only did they win the first of their two titles at Stamford Bridge in 2013, their two group meetings with Chelsea made that the most-played fixture in this competition at ten encounters. They also won 2-0 at Arsenal in the 2012/13 semi-finals on their way to a 4-1 aggregate victory and that London final.

Had Wolfsburg not let a 3-1 lead slip in their Matchday 1 draw at Chelsea their task would have been a lot more straightforward but Arsenal had reason to be grateful for their opening London game, also against German opposition, in their group: the 4-0 defeat of Hoffenheim proved key to progress as they lost twice, heavily, to Barcelona and went down 4-1 in Germany, not enough to prevent the Gunners' head-to-head progress. Both clubs know they can improve on their mixed group displays but each have the attacking weapons to make this a thrilling tie, not least top scorer Tabea Wassmuth for Wolfsburg, and Vivianne Miedema, possibly alongside new signing Stina Blackstenius, for Arsenal.

New force against old masters

Juventus provided the upset of the group stage by finishing above Chelsea and taking four points off Wolfsburg, keeping alive what seemed an unlikely dream of playing a home final in Turin. Attracting a total of 36,058 fans for their three games at Juventus Stadium in the group stage, the Italian champions – who had never previously got past the round of 32 – have built up some momentum.

But they will need to hit previously unreached heights to get past Lyon. The end of their five-year reign in last season's quarter-finals against Paris might have punctured OL's previous air of invincibility but since Sonia Bompastor's elevation to head coach and after some canny squad refreshing they still look very tough. Ada Hegerberg has returned from her long injury absence to familiar goalscoring form, while the experienced trio Sarah Bouhaddi, Dzsenifer Marozsán and Eugénie Le Sommer are back from autumn loans to OL Reign and Sara Björk Gunnarsdóttir is available again after maternity leave. Goalkeeper Bouhaddi's return could be especially important after an injury to Christiane Endler on Chile duty. Juventus, though, gave a signal of their potential last season against Lyon in their home round of 32 first leg, leading 2-1 for half an hour before a late turnaround by the visitors to win 3-2.

Pair seeking breakthrough

Paris vs Bayern: 2017 highlights

Both Bayern and Paris have largely been in the shadows of national rivals in this competition, with Wolfsburg and Lyon dominating in Europe throughout the last decade. Last season, though, Paris knocked Lyon out at this stage and both they and Bayern not only got to the semis, a stage further than both Wolfsburg and OL, but each won league titles after years of second-place frustration. Now both are seeking previous unhit heights in this competition.

Paris reached the 2015 and 2017 finals, and pushed Frankfurt and Lyon respectively all the way, but now look the strongest they have ever been, their 25 unanswered goals in winning all six group games outdoing even Barcelona, with 13 different players scoring. Bayern, who fell to Paris at this round in 2015 and only made the semi-finals for the second time last season, were not quite as spectacular in the group stage but their 1-0 defeat of Lyon a week after a heartbreaking late loss in France proved their ability and mentality.

Where to watch

Just as in the group stage, all games will be streamed live and for free on DAZN//YouTube. You can also watch the DAZN streams in our MatchCentres.