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UEFA Women's Champions League

From Bayern's change in approach to Williamson's importance at Arsenal: Five things we learned from the Women's Champions League

8:24 pm AEDT 19/11/21
UWCL composite
On matchday four of the UWCL group stages, Real Madrid hosted PSG, Juventus travelled to Wolfsburg and Bayern Munich took on Lyon

This week’s Women’s Champions League action produced the intriguing fixture quirk where teams faced each other for the second week in a row, resulting in some very interesting scorelines.

Two sides picked up their first wins, Chelsea were almost held to a shock goalless draw by Swiss side Servette, while there were three heavyweight match-ups again: Real Madrid vs PSG, Bayern Munich vs Lyon and Wolfsburg vs Juventus.

Here are five things we learned from matchday four of the UWCL...

Fridolina Rolfo is an incredible forward

When Barcelona signed Fridolina Rolfo this summer, there were some eyebrows raised.

That wasn’t because she doesn’t have the quality to play for the European champions – there is no doubt about that. It was more about where she would fit into this Barca team.

After shining for Sweden on the left wing as they won silver at the Olympic Games, she was linking up with a squad that already had two excellent players in that position – Lieke Martens and Mariona Caldentey, both of whom ranked in this year’s GOAL50.

As a result, Rolfo has often found herself playing at left-back but, on Wednesday against Hoffenheim, she was given the chance to play further forward and proved the star of the show, registering two assists in a 5-0 win.

Barcelona may be well-stocked in attack but there is no doubt that both Rolfo and her team benefit when she is deployed in her preferred position.

Bayern can compete with Europe’s best - when they want to

Last week, in the reverse game with Lyon, Bayern Munich were much more conservative than you’d perhaps expect from the German champions, who reached the last four of last season's Champions League.

The fact that their first meeting was away from home clearly influenced the Bavarians' cautious game plan, but some were disappointed to see them play with less adventure than usual, given Bayern’s huge quality and Lyon's defensive issues.

In Munich, though, Bayern's tactics were much more positive. They had more of the ball, they posed more problems for the seven-time European champions and, crucially, they got a big three points.

After what some called a lucky run to the last four in 2020-21, this result showed that Bayern can take on the continent’s very best – when they really want to.

There’s only one Leah Williamson

Arsenal were rocked by the news this week that defender Leah Williamson has suffered a "significant" hamstring injury that has likely ruled her out for the rest of 2021.

The Gunners have a lot of depth in that centre-back area. Simone Boye Sorensen, Jen Beattie and Lotte Wubben-Moy are all senior internationals in the position.

Left-back Steph Catley has played there for Australia – and at a World Cup, no less – while Lia Waelti dropped back from holding midfield for the remaining half an hour in Wednesday’s game against Koege, a 3-0 win.

But in that match against the bottom side in their Champions League group, Arsenal showed that they are not as defensively resolute when Williamson is missing. How they fare while she is sidelined could have a telling impact on their season.

Wolfsburg’s defence must improve for them to challenge again

Going into the Champions League group stages, Group A was touted as the ‘group of death’, with last season’s runners-up Chelsea thrown in with two-time champions Wolfsburg and a raw but rapidly improving Juventus side.

Such stiff competition has brought the best out of the Italians. Last week, Juve nicked a point off Wolfsburg in the dying minutes. On Thursday, they claimed all three in a 2-0 victory.

That result leaves Wolfsburg third going into the final two matches and facing possible elimination. With seven goals conceded in four games so far, compared to 10 scored, it’s clear where there needs to be improvement for them to reclaim their spot at the summit of the game.

Ukraine women’s football is serious

One of the craziest stories in women’s football this week saw Barcelona’s treble-winning head coach, Lluis Cortes, appointed head coach of the Ukraine women’s national team. With the country having just placed a bid for the 2025 UEFA Women’s Euro, the hope is that his arrival will strengthen its case.

Days later came the country’s first win in the Women’s Champions League group stages, as Kharkiv beat Icelandic side Breidablik. What was even more significant was that it put Ukraine ahead of Portugal in the race to bring two UWCL spots to its domestic league for the 2022-23 season.

With a highly rated coach at the helm of the national team, two places in Europe possibly to become available domestically and the chance of hosting a major tournament on the table, it’s certainly worth keeping an eye on what is happening in Ukraine.