Women’s Champions League title up for grabs with Lyon gone


Now that seven-time champion Lyon is gone, the remaining four clubs in the Women’s Champions League have a chance to win the title for the first time.

None of the semifinalists have ever won Europe’s premier club competition and they know a golden opportunity awaits when the first-leg matches kick off on Sunday.

“The development is very exciting to see — it’s not only one powerhouse with Lyon,” Bayern Munich midfielder Lina Magull said.

Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain enter as slight favorites over respective opponents Bayern and Barcelona. But it’s anyone’s title now.

Lyon’s five-year reign ended last weekend when PSG came from behind in the second leg of the quarterfinals — postponed by more than two weeks because of a COVID-19 outbreak in the Lyon squad — to advance on away goals after finishing 2-2.

PSG and Barcelona have been runner-up before — the French club twice and Spanish team once — but neither Chelsea nor Bayern have made it past the semifinals.

Barcelona coach Lluís Cortés noted on Friday that it’s not just Lyon out of the way — two-time champion Wolfsburg is gone, too, dispatched by Chelsea in the quarterfinals.

“It’s significant and very positive because it creates opportunities for other teams to win the Champions League,” Cortés said.

The Catalan team travels to Paris for the first match, and Bayern hosts the English champions later Sunday. The return matches are a week later.

An attacking core of Sam Kerr, Pernille Harder and Fran Kirby gives Chelsea an advantage in most matches.

“There are a lot of international top players playing there,” Bayern coach Jens Scheuer said. “Chelsea, the women’s sector, wants to become a powerhouse in European football and that’s what they have been developing toward, so its going to be a great challenge for us. But Chelsea probably sees us the same way — it’s not going to be any picnic for them.”

Chelsea captain Magdalena Eriksson’s status was uncertain after picking up an injury a week ago. The Sweden defender didn’t play Wednesday in a 2-2 draw against Manchester City in the Women’s Super League.

“They are very strong,” Magull said. “They’re very fast, great technique. It’s a complete team. (But) we also have great quality in our ranks.”

PSG can no longer bask in the glow of defeating French rival Lyon. Barcelona brings quality in its attack, led by Jenni Hermoso, who is the competition’s co-leader with five goals.

Barcelona midfielder Kheira Hamraoui, who played four seasons at PSG, said her former squad is fast and physical. She and her teammates must play “very tough defensively to prevent their counterattacks,” she said.

The Spanish team also hopes to play in front of 1,000 fans in the return match.

The final is scheduled for May 16 in Gothenburg, Sweden.

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