UEFA Women's Cup holders Arsenal LFC and their fellow top seeds begin their bids for the European title today as the second qualifying round gets under way.
Arsenal in action
Arsenal, one of five teams to be excused the first qualifying round in August, stage Group B1, like all the pools running from Thursday until Tuesday and carrying two places in the quarter-finals. Entry will be free at Borehamwood and St Albans as Arsenal take on Kazakhstan's Alma KTZH, Italy's ASD CF Bardolino Verona and SV Neulengbach of Austria. Beaten by Arsenal in last season's final, Umeå IK are also on home soil in Group B2 as they begin their bid for a record third European title against Romania's CFF Clujana, Russian champions WFC Rossiyanka and WFC Universitet Vitebsk of Belarus.
The other two-time winners, 1. FFC Frankfurt, are in Belgium for Group B3 and open against Valur Reykjavík, who recently claimed another Icelandic title. Hosts KFC Rapide Wezemaal meet Everton LFC, who qualified for a first UEFA Women's Cup bid as English runners-up behind Arsenal. Group B4 could be the tighest of all as it not only contains two teams given byes to this round – 2006/07 semi-finalists Brøndby IF and Kolbotn IL – but is staged by ambitious Olympique Lyonnais. They start against Brøndby while Norwegian champions Kolbotn are up against former quarter-finalists AC Sparta Praha. The draw for the knockout rounds is already made, and the two-legged quarter-finals will be played in November before a break until the spring.