Is concluding the UWCL season a necessity?


When I was last on my soapbox, I was bemoaning the proposed plans to finish the current UEFA Women’s Champions League season. Now that UEFA have finalised their plans and are going through with what I was wailing about, let’s chat a little more about the incoming mini-tournament.

Spain’s autonomous Basque Country will play host to the last eight team still standing with games split between Athletic Club’s San Mamés and Real Sociedad’s Anoeta Stadium. Instead of two-legged ties as are custom in the UWCL, the quarter and semi-finals will be single ties to expedite the tournament with all three rounds of matches snuggled within a ten-day window.

The last eight teams left are French duo Olympique Lyonnais (current holders and D1F champions) and Paris Saint-Germain, Bundesliga double VfL Wolfsburg (who won the German title this week) and FC Bayern München, Spanish representatives Barcelona and Atletico Madrid and British pair, Arsenal and Glasgow City.

Glasgow City are the clear outliers in the pack, not just as the only team that doesn’t come from a full-time standing but as the one that has only played one competitive match in the last seven months.

If we put the German duo to the side for a moment, we have another five teams that haven’t played competitively since the end of February. Whilst Arsenal, Atleti, Barcelona, OL and PSG can lean on their parent clubs and get back into training sooner rather than later – Lyon, for instance, are already back at it – Glasgow is again, the team with an obvious disadvantage and aren’t likely to be back in training until next month.

I have often argued there is a world of difference between being match fit and being match sharp – the best explainer for this is when a back-up goalkeeper is called upon. There is a clear mental sharpness that comes from those who have played consistently and would go some way to explaining the rash of late goals we’ve seen in Germany since the restart of the Frauen-Bundesliga.

With this is mind, it’s hard to see the UWCL mini-tournament (scheduled for 21-30 August) as anything more than a bizarre pre-season competition. And exactly not what one of the most prestigious competitions in women’s domestic football should be about.

My feeling for a long time has been that Lyon – the perennial favourites to lift the crown – wouldn’t retain their title this season. Should they stubble (and remember, they’ve won the last four finals), there are plenty who will fall back on the simple fact that their last competitive game was on 23 February, instantly cheapening it for whoever does win. Of course, I’m already talking in hypotheticals.

As I said earlier in the month, there is no overriding need for the last ties to be played out, there is no need to crown a champion. Although it would be a kick in the teeth to the players who’ve worked hard to reach the last eight, the exceptional circumstances surrounding what’s gone on in the world this year and how its affected women’s football, should allow for some mitigation. No matter what happens and whoever lifts the shapely trophy in San Sebastián at the end of August, there will always be the asterisk, the Corona caveat.

So, my simple question is: do we need this mini-tournament, must we force a conclusion of this Champions League season?


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