European League Preview Capsule: Division 1 Féminine
After an eventful and busy summer for women’s soccer, players have returned to their European clubs to get league play started for the 2021-22 season. Some leagues have expanded, while others have brought in extra stars, as they all seem to gain exposure each year. This is the first installment of a five-part series looking at some of the top leagues in Europe.
2020-21 Champion: Paris Saint-Germain – 62 points (22 games)
2020-21 Golden Boot: Khadija Shaw, Bordeaux – 22 goals (now at Manchester City)
How to watch: ATA Football, select matches carried by ESPN+ and beIN Sports
First Match: Stade Reims at Lyon, 12:30 p.m. ET, Aug. 27
Final Matchday: June 4, 2022
Both of the top two clubs in France saw a number of top players leave during the offseason, but Lyon seems to have enough depth to make sure the negative impact is not felt, and that could put them back into the top spot in the league. Plus it doesn’t hurt that Ada Hegerberg is back in training after taking a year off, which just so happened to align with Lyon’s trophy streaks' end in Europe and domestically. Hegerberg is expected to lead the attack again, and fans will finally get to see her work with American Catarina Macario and returning leading scorer Amel Majri, who will both be used to link the midfield to the attack. The midfield should get a boost as well with Danielle van de Donk making the move to France after several successful seasons with Arsenal. The defense should be as good as ever with Wendie Renard still going strong in the center. Amadine Henry will still have her spot as the team’s top holding midfielder, while Ellie Carpenter continues to progress as one of the league’s top full backs.
The club may look a little different in a few key areas this season, but PSG is certainly still a threat to retain its title. It starts up front with Marie-Antoinette Katoto, who just will not stop scoring goals. She finished just one goal shy of her third consecutive golden boot last season, and her 21 goals and eight assists were still enough to lead PSG to the league title. Her main attacking partner, Kadidiatou Diani, is back, and the duo will be backed up by newly crowned Olympic gold medalist Jordyn Huitema. The club’s assist leader from last season, Sandy Baltimore, is back and is expected to see plenty of minutes on the right wing. The question marks come in the defense, as PSG will have to replace their goalkeeper and two top defenders in terms of minutes played last season. It’s still unclear who will start in goal, but it seems Ashley Lawrence is set to take on a full-time role in the back line, along with newcomers Amanda Ilestedt and Sakina Karchaoui.
Players to Watch:
If you’re looking to watch goal scorers this season, the French league may be the one for you. Even without last season’s golden boot winner, Bordeaux should still light up the scoresheet with the help of forward Katja Snoeijs, who contributed nine goals and seven assists last season. Clara Mateo had a career season for Paris FC, finishing third in the league in goals behind Katoto and Shaw. French international Faustine Robert is with Montpellier this season after totaling 15 goal contributions for Guingamp last season. If you’re looking for a hidden talent in defense, 20-year-old Celya Barclais was one of the lone bright spots for Issy last season, playing every minute of the season on the backline, and she’s expected to be there again, at least until another club comes calling to save her from relegation.
Newcomers to Watch:
The newcomer spotlight will certainly be on the aforementioned van de Donk and Ilestedt, but there’s more to the league than just the top two clubs. French defender Julie Debever is returning to France to join Fleury after spending two seasons with Inter Milan. Montpellier upgraded its defense as well, adding Johanna Elsig from Turbine Potsdam. European champion Sisca Folkertsma has joined Bordeaux and should help fill the void left by Shaw.