The group openers continue on Thursday: we preview the action.
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The 2022/23 UEFA Women's Champions League group stage openers continue on Thursday as Groups A and B begin.
We preview the action.
All times CET
Stars collide in Paris
The schedule has produced a second stellar Anglo-French showdown after Lyon vs Arsenal on Wednesday, as Chelsea travel to Paris. Last season Paris scored 25 goals without reply in six group wins and only fell in the semis in an epic tie with Lyon; Chelsea, however, who had reached the 2021 final, suffered a surprise exit at this stage after a 4-0 Matchday 6 loss at Wolfsburg left them behind both the German side and Juventus in a three-way tie-break.
Chelsea have ended up in another 'group of death' thanks to the presence of Real Madrid, who went through with Paris in their group last season. However, Chelsea at least have happy memories of their last meeting with Paris in a dramatic 2018/19 quarter-final when the Blues won 2-0 at home but saw that lead wiped out in France before Maren Mjelde's last-gasp winner.
Both teams have evolved since. Paris might be without the injured Marie-Antoinette Katoto but Kadidiatou Diani and Grace Geyoro are joined by former Chelsea forward Ramona Bachmann and new signing Lieke Martens, plus ex-Lyon stalwart Sarah Bouhaddi in goal. Chelsea have Pernille Harder and Sam Kerr alongside Fran Kirby, emerging prospect Lauren James and their own new Lyon signing in defender Kadeisha Buchanan. However, manager Emma Hayes is absent after undergoing a hysterectomy, but remains in remote contact with the bench.
Three nations are represented in the group stage this season after missing out a year ago: Albania, Austria and Czechia. But whereas St. Pölten have been in the old round of 16 and Slavia are three-time quarter-finalists, for Vllaznia this is new territory. In fact, not only are they the first club from Albania to get to the last 16 of this competition under any format, they are the first club from Albania to get to the last 16 of any major UEFA competition since KF Tirana in the 1989/90 men's European Cup.
Madrid are their first visitors, with Paris and Chelsea to come in a baptism not just of fire, but all the other elements at their most fearsome. But they are not short of European experience, having lost only 3-0 on aggregate to Juventus in round 2 last season, two years after holding Fortuna Hjørring to a similar scoreline in the round of 32.
Domestically, Vllaznia have monopolised the Albanian championship since effectively taking over then champions Ada in 2013, winning nine straight titles without losing a single game: indeed, over those campaigns they won 175 league matches and drew just three, scoring well over 1,000 goals. However, against a Madrid side who made the quarter-finals on debut last season (despite never having won a major domestic honour), Vllaznia know they are in for a sterner test than ever before.
When are the rest of the Women's Champions League group stage games?
Matchday 2: 26/27 October
Matchday 3: 23/24 November
Matchday 4: 7/8 December
Matchday 5: 15/16 December
Matchday 6: 21/22 December
• Last season Madrid were among three teams to get to the first group stage in their debut European entry; this time only one have made it, Roma. But they should be well-prepared for seasoned campaigners Slavia Praha, since Roma knocked out Sparta Praha in round 2.
Where is the 2023 UEFA Women's Champions League final being played?
Eindhoven's PSV Stadium will stage the 2023 UEFA Women's Champions League final on the weekend of 3/4 June.
First opened in 1910, the 35,000-capacity PSV Stadium has a long history of staging major matches, including the UEFA Cup finals of 1978 (second leg) and 2006, the second leg of the 1988 UEFA Super Cup and three games at UEFA EURO 2000.
On 6 April 2018, 30,238 fans at the home of PSV Eindhoven watched the Netherlands beat Northern Ireland on the way to the FIFA Women's World Cup, a record crowd for any UEFA-organised women's qualifier. On 2 June 2019, a then Dutch women's highest attendance of 30,640 at the stadium saw the Netherlands face Australia in a friendly.