The Women's Champions League is back after a months-long delay due to the coronavirus pandemic. Fans of women's football had to be patient, but they can finally breathe a sigh of relief. The final stage of the tournament in Spain is about to begin. Will any of the teams be able to end the years-long dominance of the French giants Olympique Lyonnais? Or will Lyon be the winners for the fifth time in a row? One of the biggest challengers for the title are German powerhouses VfL Wolfsburg. It seems that the Germans have a really big chance this year.
in: Katarzyna Kiedrzynek, Lena Oberdorf, Kathrin Hendrich, Pauline Bremer
out: Claudia Neto (ACF Fiorentina), Sara Björk Gunnarsdóttir (Olympique Lyon), Hedvig Lindahl( Atletico Madrid), Noelle Maritz (Arsenal WFC), Kristine Minde (Rosenborg BK Kvinner)
In the 19/20 Frauen Bundesliga season, VfL Wolfsburg played 22 games, winning 20 of them and drawing 2. No team that managed to defeat them throughout the season. VfL Wolfsburg scored 93 goals, conceding just 8. The team managed to collect 62 points, finishing in the first place in the table with 8 points ahead of the second team - Bayern Munich.
Wolfsburg often starts in a 4-2-3-1 formation, but depending on how the game develops, they sometimes switch to three players at the back and two strikers in front. The team shows a very offensive attitude in every game. It's not surprising, because VfL Wolfsburg has great players in its roster. Die Wölfinnen's potential and offensive power is well illustrated in the graphic below.
One of the biggest strengths of VfL Wolfsburg is the fact that it is impossible to find a weak point in their team. In each position, they have a very solid player at their disposal. They are also well tactically trained and it is visible on the pitch. Sometimes it is easy to see certain patterns of the play that they fulfill during the match. VfL Wolfsburg is a team with great tactical discipline, the entire team can build a play very well, but they are also deadly effective in a quick counterattack.
Also, their offensive power is their greatest advantage. In the recently finished Frauen Bundesliga season, Wolfsburg’s offensive trio - Popp, Pajor, Harder - scored 54 goals in total. This gives 58% of goals scored by the entire team during the season. Svenja Huth and Fridolina Rolfö also provide offensive strength, and even if they are not in the starting line-up for a game, they are very valuable players when they come as substitutes.
Pernille Harder is undoubtedly one of the best players the world has ever seen. She is a world-class player. The Danish skipper scored 27 goals in 20 appearances in the 19/20 Frauen Bundesliga season. And in the UEFA Women’s Champions League, she scored 5 goals in 4 games so far. Harder shows her class on the pitch and she seems to not feel any pressure connected with such an important game, which is crucial in the context of the upcoming match against Glasgow City. Pernille Harder is a born leader and a hard worker of the team. The Danish international has an incredible vision of the game and impressive pitch intelligence. Also being a versatile player makes her an asset for the team, whether she plays as a no. 9 or no. 10.
If we are to look for any weak points, then we have to point to the defensive formation. Although Wolfsburg conceded only 8 goals in the Frauen Bundesliga season, at times they were very lucky that they managed to avoid losing more goals. Let's take a closer look at this year's DFB Pokal final, where Wolfsburg faced SGS Essen. Essen played a great game, using even the slightest mistake of the VfL team. The duo of VfL's center-backs, Goeßling - Doorsoun, looked like they were missing a thread of understanding. Especially with the goal scored by Essen already in the first minute of the match. Sara Doorsoun tried to catch the SGS Essen's forward into an offside trap, while Lena Goeßling failed to figure out her teammate's intentions and didn't secure her position. Lea Schüller used her cleverness and speed to place the ball in the back of the net. This final match set a perfect example of how even a team with such great stats that work in their favor, can make simple mistakes in the defense. VfL Wolfsburg is a very well tactically organized team, but sometimes they lose focus in defense for a moment and can be easily surprised and punished by the opponent.
Quarter-final against Glasgow City
First of all, words of appreciation should be directed to the Glasgow City team that they have reached this stage of the tournament. But realistically, VfL Wolfsburg shouldn't have any problems dealing with the Scottish team in this game. Glasgow City will definitely want to make this match as difficult for Wolfsburg as possible. I think Wolfsburg may come out quite tired from this match. We are expecting a rather easy match for the VfL in terms of scoring goals, but that doesn't mean physically it will be that easy and fun too. I think that one of two scenarios will come true. First one, Glasgow City will defend the entire match and count on counterattacks and will look for a chance in the potential mistakes of the VfL. The second scenario is Glasgow City betting on the defensive again and trying to lead to extra time and penalties. As long as they can endure the hardships of such a long physical exertion. Which scenario will come true? Or maybe Glasgow City will surprise you with a completely different tactical variant prepared for this match? We will find out tonight. VfL Wolfsburg is a definite favorite of the match, with any result other than the victory of Vfl will be considered as a massive surprise.
Potential semi-final vs FC Barcelona
The potential semi-final against Barcelona is a match that promises to be a fantastic treat for fans of women's football. Both Barcelona and VfL Wolfsburg are surely frustrated by Lyon's domination of the competition and the previous failures of both teams to beat the French team. In this semi-final, two teams with incredible offensive potential will face each other. Barca has Caroline Graham Hansen, Lieke Martens, Asisat Oshoale, Jenni Hermoso, meanwhile, Vfl has Pajor, Popp, and Harder in their roster. It's going to be a really fascinating match because both teams will definitely want to attack. It's hard to choose the favorite of the match, but it seems that VfL Wolfsburg has a slightly greater chance of winning. The German team is the favorite to win this year's tournament. Undoubtedly, FC Barcelona has made great progress since the final in Budapest last year, but their weak point can still be found in their defensive formation. If VfL Wolfsburg manages to stop Barcelona's offensive force and manages to make use of their own advantages, they will achieve their goal.
VfL Wolfsburg (G+A): Pernille Harder (27+7), Ewa Pajor (16+13), Alexandra Popp (8+7), Zsanett Jakabfi (10+3). Goals in total: 91
FC Barcelona Femeni (G+A): Jennifer Hermoso (25+2), Asisat Oshoala (26+1), Alexia Putellas (15+10), Caroline Graham Hansen (9+15).
Goals in total: 103
Potential final vs Olympique Lyonnais
The most likely scenario is that in the potential final, Wolfsburg will face his biggest nightmare so far which is Olympique Lyonnais. Never before have I heard so many voices saying that this edition of the UEFA Women's Champions League could be victorious for Vfl Wolfsburg. If these two teams meet in the final, it will be a clash of the titans. The most important role here will be played by tactics and the players' resistance to the pressure associated with the high rank of the match. Both teams have the best footballers in their rosters. Both teams have been dominating their domestic leagues for some time. We can expect a very close-fought final, in which details will probably decide about the victory of one of the sides. Given the form of both teams and the quality of the players, I wouldn't expect a big victory for one side.
This year seems to be the year in which the VfL's chances of winning the trophy are very high. After years of disappointment and inability to win the coveted title, VfL Wolfsburg seems to be the main favorite for success. If the team from Wolfsburg makes it through the quarter-finals and the potentially very difficult clash in the semi-finals, they have a good chance of beating OL Lyon in the final. The current team coached by Stephan Lerch is a mix of experienced players from different countries and young players, who are just starting their great football careers. But this diversity and the great team spirit in the team make the VfL, an already extremely successful team, still hungry for success. VfL Wolfsburg is an extremely ambitious team, well organized, and functioning as one big family making the VfL the main favorite for the title, and the team's chances should be assessed as really high.