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What to look out for in the UEFA Women's Champions League quarter-finals

We pick out the key storylines from the ties.

UEFA

The UEFA Women's Champions League quarter-finals have been set, with the first legs on 19 and 20 March. We look at the key storylines as the Bilbao final comes a step closer.

Road to Bilbao: Quarter-final and semi-final ties

Quarter-finals

First legs:

Tuesday 19 March
Ajax vs Chelsea (18:45)
Benfica vs Lyon (21:00)

Wednesday 20 March
Häcken vs Paris Saint-Germain (18:45)
Brann vs Barcelona (21:00)

Second legs:

Wednesday 27 March
Lyon vs Benfica (18:45)
Chelsea vs Ajax (21:00)

Thursday 28 March
Barcelona vs Brann (18:45)
Paris Saint-Germain vs Häcken (21:00)

All times CET

Semi-finals (20/21 & 27/28 April)

1: Brann/Barcelona vs Ajax/Chelsea
2: Benfica/Lyon vs Häcken/Paris Saint-Germain

Final (25 May, San Mamés, Bilbao)

Winner semi-final 1 vs Winner semi-final 2

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Ajax aim to add Chelsea scalp

Ajax were considered outsiders in a group containing three of last season's quarter-finalists: Bayern, Paris Saint-Germain and Roma. But while Paris topped the group, Bayern and Roma both trailed Ajax, only the second Dutch quarter-finalists after Saestum in 2006/07. Few expect Ajax to suffer the same 11-3 aggregate defeat Saestum did against Umeå back then, despite Chelsea's pedigree, not least because Paris, Bayern and Roma all lost in Amsterdam during the group stage.

The cumulative crowd for those three matches was close to 50,000, the best home turnout for any of the 16 group contenders. Chelsea ought to attract the biggest attendance yet, even without the injured Sam Kerr. The Blues still boast the star power of Lauren James among others, plus by the time they go to the Netherlands they may be further boosted by the return of Millie Bright and Catarina Macario, and new signings Nathalie Björn and Mayra Ramírez if the latter trio are the three permitted new registrations when squad changes are confirmed.

Ajax's road to the last eight: Every goal

This is Emma Hayes's 12th and final season in charge at Chelsea, and the Champions League trophy is the only major honour missing from her Blues collection – it has been a subplot running through their campaign. But before thinking of a possible semi-final rematch with recent nemeses Barcelona or even a trip to Bilbao, the London side know Ajax's young team are a formidable obstacle.

Chelsea's road to the last eight: Every goal

Benfica's fresh challenge for Lyon

Benfica faced Lyon in the inaugural group stage of 2021/22 and twice lost 5-0 to the eventual champions. That was far from a disgrace for the Eagles, who outperformed many expectations by taking a point off Bayern and finishing above Häcken.

It was only Benfica's second European campaign (Lyon were on their way to an eighth title) and when they went out to Chelsea in the old round of 32 on debut, it would have seemed far-fetched that within three seasons there would be a Portuguese club in the quarter-finals and no German representatives. Yet Benfica finished ahead of four-time champions Frankfurt in their group, and such has been their rise, it did not even count as a big surprise.

Benfica's road to the last eight: Every goal

Benfica further proved their worth with a superb comeback to draw 4-4 at home to Barcelona on Matchday 6 despite the injury absence of Benfica's key forward Kika Nazareth. Former Lyon forward Jéssica Silva performed excellently against the holders, though, and will be keen to put on a show against a club where in a two-year spell she was never able to make a breakthrough.

OL won five of their eight Champions League titles before Benfica even played their first competitive game in September 2018, and have been in vintage form this season. Ada Hegerberg and summer arrival Kadidatou Diani are among the four group-stage top scorers on five goals. But Benfica have already knocked out the second-most successful team in this competition's history in Frankfurt, and will be determined to add the only women's club with a bigger UEFA trophy collection.

Lyon's road to the last eight: Every goal
Bracket Predictor: Plot the road to the final

Häcken aim for Paris double

Häcken, having faced Lyon, Bayern and Benfica in the inaugural group stage, missed out last season thanks to a 4-1 aggregate round 2 defeat by Paris Saint-Germain. But the Gothenburg side put that right this time, twice coming from behind to knock out Twente (who have gone on to open up a big lead over Ajax in the Eredivisie Vrouwen).

In the group stage they drew 0-0 at Chelsea and finished above not only Real Madrid but also Paris FC, conquerors of Arsenal and Wolfsburg. That showed particular cool nerves from Häcken, who just days before the group stage kicked off had been denied the Damallsvenskan title on goal difference by Hammarby following a dramatic final day in Sweden.

Häcken's road to the last eight: Every goal

In their first quarter-final since making the 2011/12 and 2012/13 last eight in their former guise of Göteborg FC, Häcken are reunited with Paris Saint-Germain, who had to overcome Manchester United in round 2 then recovered from losing their first two group games to finish above Ajax, Bayern and Roma after nervy Matchday 6 draw in Munich.

Having fallen narrowly to Wolfsburg at this stage last year to end a run of three straight semi-final appearances, the two-time runners-up are determined to return to the last four, and a possible showdown with Lyon. This term Paris Saint-Germain have been powered by the prolific Marie-Antoinette Katoto, whose free-scoring form after missing the whole of 2022/23 injured has softened the blow of Diani's departure to OL.

Paris' road to the last eight: Every goal

Brann look to make more history

Brann were the only one of the group contenders to have never been among the last 16 in any format (and, like Häcken, had to contend with no domestic action) but their quarter-final progress was not a total surprise, even ahead of experienced campaigners Slavia Praha and St. Pölten. Where Brann truly impressed, though, were in their matches against group winners Lyon.

The Norwegian side performed well in a 3-1 away loss and then the following week became the first team to avoid defeat after going 2-0 down against the French side since the club took over the former FC Lyon in 2004. Brann's last-gasp equaliser was scored by 18-year-old midfielder Signe Gaupset, who had already won praise from several Lyon stars after the game in France.

Brann's road to the last eight: Every goal

Of course holders Barcelona, aiming to make their fourth final in a row and fifth in six years, and who were last knocked out in a two-legged tie back in the 2017/18 quarters by Lyon (their 2019/20 semi-final loss to Wolfsburg was in a one-off match). For the second year running Barcelona were group stage top scorers, only dropping points in that 4-4 Matchday 6 draw at Benfica when first place was already secure.

Barcelona's only previous meeting with a team from Norway was also when the most recent occasion a Toppserien side reached the quarter-finals, a 4-0 aggregate success against LSK Kvinner, whose team featured Ingrid Engen, now with the Blaugrana.

Barcelona's road to the last eight: Every goal

Where is the 2024 UEFA Women's Champions League final being played?

San Mamés Stadium in Bilbao will stage the 2024 Women's Champions League final on Saturday 25 May, with the kick-off time to be confirmed.

The 50,000-plus capacity home of Bilbao's Athletic Club was built on the site of the old San Mamés, replacing the 100-year-old arena of the same name in 2013. Athletic Club women's team have played several games in the new stadium, attracting 48,121 fans for a 2019 cup tie against Atlético de Madrid, at the time a Spanish record.