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UWCL Power Rankings
Halfway through the group stages, here's how the best teams in Europe are looking
We are now halfway through the group stages of the Champions League with all teams having played three matches.
Only one group is going exactly the way it was expected to with Barcelona sitting top of Group D with nine points and Bayern Munich in second with six points.
Chelsea are looking quite comfortable at the top of Group A but it is still very open as to whether PSG or Real Madrid go through.
Wolfsburg and Roma look certain to go through together in Group B but their draw this week means it is by no means obvious who will come top and who will come second.
Group C is definitely the most intriguing. Arsenal are top with 7 points but Juventus have picked up two decent draws against Arsenal and Lyon. Yet you still wouldn’t want to entirely write off the holders Lyon heading into the final three matches. I honestly could see any combination of those three teams still going through.
Here’s how I think all 16 of the UWCL teams are looking so far.
16 - VLLAZNIA
Nobody wants to be the Albanian side in a group with Real Madrid, Paris St-Germain and Chelsea. Probably their highlight of the group so far has been keeping Real Madrid goalless for over 50 minutes in their home fixture. If this was a ranking based on how good each side’s fans are, though, Vllaznia would be number one.
15 - SLAVIA PRAHA
Slavia Praha can maybe count themselves as slightly unlucky to have no points having played pretty even matches against both Roma and St Pölten in Group B. Given Roma and Wolfsburg both already have seven points, Slavia Praha are almost certainly out of the competition but the return fixtures against those teams might at least allow them to get something from their UWCL run.
14 - ZURICH
Zurich had some decent moments against Arsenal at the Emirates, with a well-taken goal as a reward for their efforts. They certainly have not just allowed the other sides in this group to walk over them but they still look unlikely to pick up any points.
13 - ST PÖLTEN
One half of one of the most enjoyable games in the UWCL so far - the 4-3 loss to Roma - St Pölten picked up their first win of the group stages thanks to a last minute winner over Slavia Praha. It is hard to imagine them getting close enough to get out of the groups though.
12 - ROSENGARD
No one expected Rosengard to get out of a group that contained Bayern Munich and Barcelona but it is fair to say they have performed worse than expected. They only managed one shot on target away at Benfica, which would surely have been a game they fancied winning, and despite scoring against both Bayern and Barca were beaten comfortably in the end. It probably has not helped that they lost key players such as Katrine Veje and Jelena Cankovic to the WSL during the summer transfer window.
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11 - BENFICA
Benfica showed in last season’s UWCL that they were not afraid of a shock result and they have only improved this year. Unfortunate not to take anything from the match against Bayern Munich, they deserved their 1-0 win over Rosengard. Despite being absolutely trounced by Barcelona (it happens to the best of us Benfica), Benfica have demonstrated that they are not a team to be taken lightly.
10 - REAL MADRID
Real Madrid’s summer signings looked like they were ready to propel the Spanish team to new heights but they have been poor in both the UWCL and Liga F. They set out to frustrate Chelsea this week and the attitude from manager Alberto Toril to the game suggested he saw them as some kind of plucky underdogs. But this is a side who currently wait for individual glimmers from Caroline Weir or Athenea del Castillo rather than playing as a collective. Real Madrid probably know that this group will come down to a ‘winner takes all’ game against Paris St-Germain, but right now, I’d back PSG.
9 - LYON
The start that the Champions League holders have made to this season is somewhat extraordinary. The utter capitulation at the hands of Arsenal can only partially be explained by injuries, although the fact they are currently missing four players who started last season’s final on a long-term basis has not helped. This is a serious test for Sonia Bompastor who pretty much breezed through her first full season in charge. The underlying numbers suggest they have been somewhat unlucky this season but they were defensively wide open against Arsenal. Lyon know they will have to get wins against both Juventus and Arsenal to keep qualification from the group in their own hands.
8 - PARIS ST GERMAIN
There is a great irony between Paris St Germain’s chaos off the pitch and their dullness on it. They created barely anything against Chelsea or Real Madrid and look absolutely bereft without Marie-Antoinette Katoto up front. Their 5-0 win over Vllaznia will be confidence (and goal difference) boosting, whilst the reintegration of Sandy Baltimore into the starting XI is adding much more attacking threat. Defensively they still seem rocky though with Sarah Bouhaddi not inspiring confidence in goal.
7 - JUVENTUS
Given some of Juventus’ performances in the league, sitting second in a group that also contains Arsenal and Lyon is a pretty decent outcome for Joe Montemurro’s side. They have managed two 1-1 draws with both sides but have failed to really impress in either match - they did not even have a shot on target against Lyon. Given they have to now go away to Lyon and Arsenal, it feels most likely that Juventus end up going out in third.
6 - BAYERN MUNICH
Bayern Munich have done everything you would really expect them to do in their group e.g. beat Benfica and Rosengard, and lose to Barcelona, but it has hardly been sparkling. They were very lucky to come back from behind against Benfica, who missed a penalty, and Bayern relied on two long-range efforts from Georgia Stanway in the 83rd and 98th minutes to win.
It does not help that both their first choice full-backs, Giulia Gwinn and Hanna Glas, are long-term absentees, and Barcelona in particular rinsed them on the wings. However, their 21 year old goalkeeper Mala Grohs continues to impress.
5 - ROMA
Group B always looked open for any one of Roma, St Pölten or Slavia Praha to try and grab, and Roma have certainly taken that opportunity. Despite only winning 4-3 against St Pölten and 1-0 against Slavia Praha, they looked comfortable in both games, and the 1-1 draw with Wolfsburg has just shown they are able to contain one of the very best. They should feel confident in beating the two smaller teams in the reverse fixtures, and are sitting four points clear at the top of Serie A too right now.
4 - ARSENAL
Arsenal’s 5-1 walloping of Lyon on the opening matchday was the stand out result so far in the UWCL but injuries have left Arsenal looking a little worse for wear. They are currently missing four key starters in Leah Williamson, Rafaelle, Kim Little and Beth Mead, so perhaps it was no surprise that they could not force the issue against Juventus. They weren’t short of opportunities in the first half but in the end relied on a Vivianne Miedema header to get the equaliser.
Their success in the second half of the group stage feels heavily dependent on when their missing players return. Williamson and Rafaelle are back in training whilst Lyon and Juventus both have to come to the Emirates. This feels like Arsenal’s group to let slip.
3 - WOLFSBURG
On paper, Wolfsburg have one of the most talented squads in Europe and whilst they have dominated St Pölten and Slavia Praha, they dropped points to Roma. A lack of Lena Oberdorf, out with a shoulder injury, probably contributed heavily to Roma’s ability to run through Wolfsburg’s midfield, but it puts extra pressure on the rematch on 8th December. A winner there could determine who finishes top of the group.
Ewa Pajor has arguably been the stand-out performer of the whole competition so far with her individual equaliser against Roma one of four goals she has scored in the first three matches.
2 - CHELSEA
Chelsea have deeply unpleasant memories of the UWCL group stage so when they were drawn with Paris St-Germain and Real Madrid, it was easy to fear a repeat of last year. But it has been so far so good for the 2021 finalists who are the only team in the competition yet to concede a goal. They have not always been sparkling but they have calmly broken down both PSG and Madrid, as well as benefiting from the two teams drawing with each other. Manager Emma Hayes has praised their patience, saying they learned from last year’s experience not to get frustrated, and it has put them in a strong position heading into the second half of the group stages.
1 - BARCELONA
For me, despite their performance in the final itself, Barcelona were the best team in the Champions League last year. Right now, I’m not sure any team in Europe comes close to them, even if I don’t think they have hit the heights of last season just yet. Their 3-0 win over Bayern Munich was potentially their most complete performance of the season so far, although their 9-0 demolition of Benfica was equally impressive. Despite being without Alexia Putellas, they are breezing into the knockout stages and will be the team to beat.