Rapid Reaction: UWCL Round of 16 draw features several lopsided matchups
It has been two months since the last match was played in the UEFA Women’s Champions League but we now finally know the matchups for the Round of 16 which will be played next month. The quarterfinals almost seem predictable at this point with several ties featuring heavy favorites but games are not played on paper and there are still plenty of reasons to be glued to a TV for the matchdays in March.
The Full Draw
Wolfsburg (GER) vs. LSK Kvinner (NOR)
Barcelona (ESP) vs. Fortuna Hjørring (DEN)
Rosengård (SWE) vs. St. Pölten (AUT)
BIIK-Kazygurt (KAZ) vs. Bayern Münich (GER)
Manchester City (ENG) vs. Fiorentina (ITA)
Sparta Praha (CZE) vs. Paris Saint-Germain (FRA)
Lyon (FRA, holders) vs. Brøndby (DEN)
Chelsea (ENG) vs. Atletico Madrid (ESP)
The Can’t Miss Tie – Chelsea vs. Atletico Madrid
We knew whichever seeded team drew Atletico would likely have the toughest path to the quarterfinals but Chelsea should still feel confident going into this one. While Atletico may put up the best fight of the unseeded teams, this tie may tell us more about how much of a threat Chelsea actually is to Lyon’s streak of five straight titles.
The Blues have the roster to go deep into the tournament and they have been showing off some of that talent and depth on their way to a five-point lead at the top of the WSL table. Chelsea may even be a favorite to make it back to the semifinals at the least.
Pernille Harder was brought in to help Chelsea get over the hump in this competition and she already delivered strong performances in the first knockout round. Her influence should help Chelsea easily handle Atletico but once again, it’s never as simple as it is on paper.
Atletico has made some changes of its own to try to boost its chances on the continental stage. Rasheedat Ajibade and Aminata Diallo have both been brought in since the start of 2021 and will likely be inserted into starting lineups against Chelsea. Emelyne Laurent, who is on loan from Lyon and recorded a goal and an assist in the Round of 32, adds yet another attacking option off the bench. That extra talent should open things up for the likes of Toni Duggan and Ludmilla to do more work in front of goal.
It would certainly be a surprise to see Atletico pull this one off but the talent alone on both sides makes this the can’t miss tie of the round.
The Snoozer – Bayern Munich vs. BIIK-Kazygurt
A number of these ties could be separated by five or more goals by the end of the two legs but this one just seems to be extra boring since we saw this exact same matchup in the Round of 16 last season. Bayern eased to a 7-0 aggregate win over the Kasakhstani club and it doesn’t seem likely there will be too many differences to this year’s tie.
Bayern Munich is probably playing better football now than it was at this point last season, not dropping a single point in league play and allowing just two goals through 14 matches. And that may make this a “can’t miss tie” if you like watching really good teams throttle the less fortunate but it’s likely you won’t even get to see Bayern at its best as they can still stay focused on ending the league-title drought without yet risking an early exit in the Champions League.
Upset Alert – Rosengard vs. St. Polten
Rosengard is looking for its first trip to the quarterfinals since 2017 and the kind draw will have it as a favorite to return there this season. However, St. Polten is still riding high as it is the only team to be making its club debut in the Round of 16 and the last team remaining from the qualifying rounds.
But St. Polten didn’t just sneak into this round. They were dominant over two legs against Zurich (3-0) as the defense soaked in any pressure and helped 20-year-old goalie Isabelle Kresche keep a pair of clean sheets. Kresche made eight saves across the two legs and she will likely be called upon for more in order to take down Rosengard, who just scored 17 goals in the Round of 32.
Breakout Player to Watch – Abigail Kim, Fiorentina
If you’re a die-hard US Women’s National Team or NWSL fan, there’s a pretty good chance you already know who Kim is and what she is capable of. However, if you’re not familiar with her yet, I recommend tuning in for Fiorentina’s matchups with Manchester City.
Fiorentina likely will not be moving on any further than the Round of 16 but there are more than a few reasons to watch them and Kim is near the top of the list.
Kim has settled into the squad and has appeared in each match during Fiorentina’s current three-game winning streak in Italy. She already has two goals in her first season with the club including a winner during the Coppa Italia semifinals against AC Milan. Kim also played 73 minutes in the final against Juventus and impressed enough to spark rumors of Juventus wanting to move in on the 21-year-old winger.
Manchester City will certainly be a challenge for every Fiorentina player but without any real pressure or expectations, Kim may be the one to make some noise or even grab a goal in a more attacking role when City inevitably takes a lead.