Nearly six months since their last fixture, and five months since the match was supposed to take place, Arsenal Women are set to play again, facing Paris St. Germain on Saturday in the Champion’s League. Much like the men’s Champions League, the women’s competition has been condensed into an 8-day tournament, with single-leg cup ties rather than the usual of two-legged ties, with all matches in Spain, split between Bilbao and San Sebastián.
The match, coming at the beginning of the timeframe of the 2020-21 season is technically part of the 2019-20 season, and having missed out on the Women’s Super League and the Continental Cup, it is one of two chances left for silverware for the season. More importantly, for Arsenal, success in the Champions League is the only way to qualify for next season’s Champions League, which will begin in November. Arsenal winning the Champions League is a pretty tall order, beginning with a genuine 50-50 tie with PSG.
PSG’s manager, Olivier Echouafni has an abundance of attacking talent to choose from, with top-scorer Marie-Antoinette Katoto, winger Kadidiatou Diani, Canadian striker Jordyn Huitema, and Nadia Nadim. They added Ramona Bachmann, lately of Chelsea, to their attacking options, and while PSG utilized a 4-4-2 shape in the Coupe de France earlier this month, they usually play 4-3-3, with Formiga and Grace Geyoro at the base of midfield. With Sara Däbritz making her way back from an ACL injury suffered in December, PSG are not as dangerous creatively as they might be, though the front three has plenty of creativity and speed from Nadim and Diani, and Geyoro adds goals from midfield. The Chilean goalkeeper, Christiane Endler, is one of the best shot-stoppers in the world.
Better than March! Arsenal have played three friendlies, beating Aston Villa, Charlton, and Brighton. They’ve had a penalty shoot-out following each game, and as far as we know, everyone is fit, with Kim Little, Beth Mead, Danïelle van de Donk, and Lia Wälti all recovering from injuries they had in the spring. The game might come too early for new signing Steph Catley who hasn’t played since March, while Noëlle Maritz, another fullback, featured for Wolfsburg during the conclusion of the league and cup campaign in June and early July. Lydia Williams suffered an ankle injury during pre-season which required surgery, which will mean the 19-year old Fran Stenson, who has not yet played for the club, will be on the bench.
Since Arsenal last played, four players have arrived and five have left.
Players to Watch: Vivianne Miedema and Caitlin Foord
Vivianne Miedema is the best striker in the world, and as such, the best striker left in the competition (especially as Ada Hegerberg is recovering from an ACL injury). Miedema has scored 10 goals in 4 Champions League games this season, led the WSL in goals the last two seasons, and is also Arsenal’s best assister in the final third. Miedema blends the attributes of a number 9 and number 10, and will frequently take up positions off the forward line to get into space and create chances for her teammates. Beyond that, she is incredibly clinical. If Arsenal are to win the Champions League, it’ll be because they have the best striker in the competition.
Caitlin Foord only played two games for Arsenal before lockdown, having joined in January. The Australian—joined this summer by teammates Steph Catley and Lydia Williams—offers versatility, with the capability of playing different positions. But she also offers a directness and physicality to Arsenal’s attack. “She’s a little bit different to some of the players we’ve got, she’s quite powerful in the final third, so she nicely complements what we’ve got already,” says Joe Montemurro. Her ability to play combination passes suits Arsenal’s style of play, and she is excellent off the ball, which from a wide position can provide the full back with a little more defensive cover.
Predicted XI (4-3-3):
Manuela Zinsbeger; Lisa Evans, Leah Williamson, Jen Beattie, Noëlle Maritz; Lia Wälti, Kim Little, Jordan Nobbs; Caitlin Foord, Viviane Miedema, Danïelle van de Donk
Subs: Fran Stenson, Leonie Maier, Steph Catley, Viki Schnaderbeck, Jill Roord, Malin Gut, Mel Filis, Katie McCabe, Beth Mead, Ruby Mace
WHAT: Arsenal Women vs. PSG, UEFA Women’s Champions League quarter-final
WHERE: Anoeta Stadium, San Sebastián
WHEN: Saturday, August 22nd 11 AM PDT | 2 PM EDT | 7 PM BST
NOTES: There is no VAR until the final. Teams are allowed to use five substitutions, in three blocks.
Arsenal are the only British team to win the Champions League, having done so in 2007.