The quarter-finals approaching fast and UEFA.com catches up with the teams, four of them in the midst of league fixtures, one on winter break and three in close season.
Article top media content
Tyresö FF (SWE) v SV Neulengbach (AUT)**
VfL Wolfsburg (GER, holders) v FC Barcelona (ESP)
ASD Torres CF (ITA) v 1. FFC Turbine Potsdam (GER)
*Birmingham City LFC (ENG) v Arsenal LFC (ENG)
*First leg 24 March
**Second leg 29 March
Semi-finals: 19/20 & 26/27 April
Birmingham/Arsenal v Tyresö/Neulengbach
Torres/Potsdam v Wolfsburg/Barcelona
Final (Estádio do Restelo, Lisbon): 22 May
Winner semi-final 1 v Winner semi-final 2
Already home to Marta, Tyresö have added four more Brazilians in the Swedish close season. Winger Fabiana, right-back Rilany and defensive midfielders Thiasa and Mayara have arrived along with Finland goalkeeper Tinja-Riikka Korpela, while striker Madeleine Edlund is back from maternity leave. Making way are retiring defender Johanna Frisk, departing Caroline Graham Hansen, Jennifer Hermoso, Kirsten van de Ven and Sara Thunebro, plus American pair Ashlyn Harris and Alex Krieger, called home by the United States Soccer Federation (USSF)
However their other Americans, top scorer Christen Press and defenders Whitney Engen and Meghan Kingenberg, will remain for the rest of Tyresö's European bid. With no competitive matches until the cup tie with Eskilstuna United DFF on 16 March, Tyresö have concentrated on friendlies this month, beating both FC Honka of Finland and KIF Örebro DFF 5-0 before Sunday's 4-1 defeat of Marta's one-time club Umeå IK.
Out of competitive action since eliminating Konak Belediyespor from Europe in November, having ended the first half of the Austrian season with nine perfect wins and 50 goals, Neulengbach were on friendly duty in the Czech capital last weekend, losing 4-2 at SK Slavia Praha on Saturday – having come back to level from two down – and 3-1 at FK Bohemians Praha the following day, utilising 20 players over the two games. Over the winter, Neulengbach have signed Chinese Taipei midfielder Tseng Shu-o – the 29-year-old ex-AS Saint-Étienne playmaker becoming their first Asian recruit – as well as American-born Romania midfielder Nicole Marton and young Austrian talents Katharina Meyer and Jacqueline Singer.
Chasing a second straight treble, Wolfsburg missed the chance to lead the Frauen Bundesliga at the halfway stage on Saturday when they were held 0-0 at leaders 1. FFC Frankfurt – like the European champions, still unbeaten. Wolfsburg had returned to second, two points behind Frankfurt, with a 4-1 thrashing of BV Cloppenburg a week earlier to kick off their 2014 fixtures but are now back to third, Potsdam a point ahead after downing FC Bayern München on Sunday.
At Frankfurt, who inflicted Wolfsburg's only loss this season with a 1-0 German Cup victory in November, Ralf Kellermann fielded Alexandra Popp in front of a five-strong midfield and had more possession, especially in the second half, but few clear chances. The Wolfsburg coach said: "I would have taken a draw before the game, now I am a bit disappointed. While we could not create a lot of big chances, we had more of the game. Overall, I liked what my team showed."
Undefeated in 56 matches since a 4-0 loss at Arsenal LFC curtailed their debut European campaign in the round of 32 in October 2012, Barcelona have carried on from their unblemished calendar year by beginning 2014 with five wins and two draws – leaving them ten points clear of Athletic Club in Spain's top flight. The Blaugrana drafted in one reinforcement over the winter with Jennifer Hermoso landed on loan from Tyresö until the end of the season. Having already featured for the Swedish outfit in Europe this term, however, the Spanish international is ineligible to face Wolfsburg.
Torres suffered a rare blip when they succumbed 3-1 at home to Brescia CF on 11 January, though they have won all six games since, with Panico in typically prolific form. However, Brescia are on a 17-match winning run, one short of the league record, and Torres are only a point clear having played a game more, with UPC Tavagnacco also in close contention. Nevertheless, Torres received a boost in Saturday's 4-0 success over FC Internazionale Milano with the return of midfielder Daniela Stracchi, out since 10 October with torn cruciate knee ligaments. The Sardinian club also captured Iceland striker Hallbera Gísladóttir and Slovenia midfielder Kristina Erman in January.
Potsdam, who cut short Olympique Lyonnais's bid for a fifth straight final in the round of 16 in November, kicked off 2014 with a 2-1 comeback victory at fourth-placed Bayern thanks to Ada Hegerberg and Lisa Evans, though the home team piled on the pressure for an equaliser despite Niki Cross's red card. "In the end, it was a really lucky win," said Potsdam coach Bernd Schröder, fielding new signing Gudbjörg Gunnarsdóttir in goal. "We could not have complained had the equaliser come in the end. We took one of our few chances. The first game after the winter break was difficult for both sides."
Compared with their English opponents, Birmingham have had a relatively quiet close season in preparation for the teams' date a month tonight with the Gunners at St Andrew's, home of their men's side. Key players in captain Laura Bassett, forward Isobel Christiansen and defender Rachel Unitt have left, while in their place, among a largely home-grown squad, have arrived midfielder Remi Allen and Wales forward Hannah Keryakoplis.
Last winter the key change at Arsenal was manager Laura Harvey's departure, to be replaced on the eve of their quarter-final with Torres by Shelley Kerr. This time Kerr has been building a new-look squad, following the departures of Stephanie Houghton, Ciara Grant, Yvonne Tracy, Gilly Flaherty, Katie Chapman, Gemma Davison, Kim Little and Ellen White from a club deposed as champions in 2013 by Liverpool LFC.
Kerr has added England goalkeeper Siobhan Chamberlain and captain Casey Stoney, Japan pair Yukari Kinga and Shinobu Ohno, versatile Dutch international Anouk Hoogendijk and a player unable to face Birmingham having met Arsenal in the round of 16, ex-Glasgow City LFC forward Christie Murray. On top of that, player-assistant coach Kelly Smith, experienced right-back Alex Scott, keeper Emma Byrne, winger Rachel Yankey, midfielder Jordan Nobbs and rising stars Carter and Freda Ayisi have all penned new contracts.