UWCL Talking Points: Examining the Chaos of Group C and Chelsea's Triumph

If you're not watching the Women's Champions League, you're missing out Women's football schedule is becoming unsustainable as injuries mount How Champions League underdogs BK Häcken have stunned Europe Eight-time winners Lyon secured their spot...

UWCL talking points: The chaos of Group C delivers; Chelsea through

If you're not watching the Women's Champions League, you're missing out

UWCL talking points: The chaos of Group C delivers; Chelsea through

Women's football schedule is becoming unsustainable as injuries mount

UWCL talking points: The chaos of Group C delivers; Chelsea through

How Champions League underdogs BK Häcken have stunned Europe

Eight-time winners Lyon secured their spot in Group B with a resounding 7-0 victory over St. Pölten. However, SK Brann's impressive 1-0 win against Slavia Prague saw them progress as well.

Group C remains an intense battle as Paris Saint-Germain defeated Ajax Amsterdam 3-1 to claim the top spot, while Roma could only manage a 2-2 draw against Bayern Munich. With just four points separating the top and bottom teams, the final game promises to be a nail-biting affair.

Meanwhile, Chelsea secured the top spot in Group D with a hard-fought 2-1 win over Real Madrid, who were already out. Swedish surprise package BK Häcken, on the other hand, drew 0-0 with Paris FC, securing a one-point lead for second place heading into the final game.

Final group-stage fixtures:

  • Jan. 30: Bayern vs PSG, Ajax vs Roma
  • Jan. 30: Paris FC vs Chelsea, Real Madrid vs Häcken
  • Jan. 31: Lyon vs Slavia, Brann vs St. Pölten;
  • Jan. 31: Benfica vs Barcelona, Frankfurt vs Rosengård

We sought the insights of our esteemed writers Sophie Lawson, Sam Marsden, and Connor O'Halloran to shed light on some burning questions.

1. What stood out to you in this round of action?

Marsden: Undoubtedly, Group C. It has been a captivating journey that promises an exciting finale. The 2-2 draw between Roma and Bayern was particularly thrilling, featuring goals in the 87th, 93rd, and 96th minutes. Lea Schüller's remarkable brace for the Germans leveled the score twice, creating an exhilarating spectacle. With PSG currently leading the group, a draw against Bayern would secure their spot, but a loss could see them exit. Bayern must win, Ajax needs to beat Roma, while Roma hopes for a victory and Bayern's stumble. It's all to play for!

Lawson: Rosengård's Olivia Schough delivered a sublime goal in their 2-2 draw with Benfica. It's been tough witnessing the struggles of the once-mighty Swedish team this season, but earning a point was a much-needed boost for them. The draw in Malmö also gave Frankfurt a glimmer of hope in their away game against Barcelona, though that hope was short-lived despite the Eagles' best efforts. Group C's chaos continued with late drama in Italy and breathtaking goals in Paris. PSG's Marie-Antoinette Katoto showcased her pre-injury form, while Ajax's Romée Leuchter shone despite being on the losing side.

O'Halloran: While the thrilling ending in the Bayern-Roma game was incredible, let's focus on some outstanding goals from other matches. Katoto's acrobatic side-bicycle kick for PSG kickstarted their crucial victory. Schough's fantastic strike for Rosengård, perfectly curled past the goalkeeper into the far right corner, exemplified her skill and precision. These moments of brilliance add a special touch to the competition.

2. Which team impressed you the most, and which team disappointed you?

O'Halloran: While Barcelona and Lyon were expected to dominate their groups given their quality, Ajax has been an impressive surprise. Making their first appearance in the group stage, they faced tough opponents in PSG, Bayern Munich, and Roma. Despite this, Ajax remains in second place heading into the final matches, with a great chance of progressing. On the other end, Real Madrid has been a disappointment. Despite possessing world-class talent, they have only managed a single point in the group stage. Even an injury-hit Chelsea side could defeat them with relative ease.

Marsden: Barcelona and Lyon have demonstrated their dominance, undefeated and scoring a remarkable 23 goals each in just five games. No team has conceded fewer goals than Barcelona, who have let in just one, while Lyon has only allowed three. Ajax and Häcken, for me, have exceeded expectations, performing admirably in challenging groups.

Real Madrid, once PSG got their act together after two initial defeats, has been the biggest letdown. They seemed well-positioned to progress from Group D alongside Chelsea but have instead stumbled miserably, securing only one point from five games.

Lawson: Häcken continues to impress, despite missing an opportunity for an easier path with a win. Rosa Kafaji may still be ruing her missed penalty, but Chiamaka Nnadozie's standout performance for Paris FC earned her a well-deserved clean sheet. Brann, making their debut in the Champions League, may not have set the world on fire, but their steady performance throughout the season deserves recognition. As for disappointment, Roma has struggled since their first match against PSG, spiraling into a slump of poor form. Their vulnerability against Bayern was evident, and conceding a goal shortly after scoring a potential winner came as no surprise. It's been a rough month for Roma, who have fallen from grace since their impressive debut campaign last season. Their struggles in all competitions are disheartening to witness.

Roma are in a downturn of form that could see them miss out in Group C now. Roma are in a downturn of form that could see them miss out in Group C now. (Image: Domenico Cippitelli/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

3. What are your thoughts on the new 'Swiss model' arriving in 2025-26? Will it be beneficial for the women's game, or do you prefer the current group stage format?

Lawson: Although change can be challenging, I wish we could have enjoyed the group stage format for longer. Since its reintroduction three years ago, the Champions League has provided increasingly entertaining matches, often surprising fans with unexpected outcomes. Aligning both the men's and women's competitions may seem logical, but it's essential to consider the disparities in resources and development between the two. Only time will tell if the Swiss model will prove as enjoyable as the current format, but I already sense that I will miss it.

O'Halloran: It's difficult to feel positive about UEFA's Super League-style attempts to rebrand European club football. However, there are pros and cons to the new model. Expanding the number of teams from 16 to 18 should give more major names a chance to reach this stage, rather than falling in qualifying rounds. While this may seem unfair to teams like Arsenal, who were beaten by Paris FC, it would enhance the competition by increasing the likelihood of top clubs facing each other on Europe's grandest stage. On the other hand, it's the drama and uncertainty that captivate us in the current group stage. The intense battle in Group C, with four major European teams vying for qualification, showcases the excitement this format provides.

Marsden: I am optimistic about the Swiss model. It will offer more opportunities for top seeds to face each other earlier in the competition, allowing them to gauge their strengths and weaknesses from the outset. Simultaneously, lower-ranked teams will have more chances to test their mettle against the best. Ultimately, this should contribute to the overall improvement of the competition, which, aside from a few exceptions, has been relatively predictable during this year's group phase.

In conclusion, the Women's Champions League never fails to deliver excitement and surprises. Group C's intense battle, Chelsea's triumph, and the performances of underdogs like Ajax and Häcken have added an extra dimension to the tournament. As the Swiss model looms on the horizon, discussions arise regarding its potential impact on the women's game. Change is inevitable, but we cannot help but cherish the current format's thrills and anticipation.