Arsenal Women travel to Germany to face Wolfsburg on Sunday to play the first leg of the Champions League semi-final. Arsenal haven’t been in the Champions League semi-final since 2013, when they faced the same opponents. Arsenal also played Wolfsburg last year, losing 3-1 on aggregate in the quarter-final. Arsenal, of course, are the only English team to win the Champions League, having done so in 2017.
Arsenal enter the match with a huge amount of injury concern. Leah Williamson ruptured her ACL on Wednesday, and Kim Little will also miss the rest of the season. Caitlin Foord, so influential in the quarter-final against Bayern Munich, injured her hamstring against Manchester City at the beginning of the month, and is not available. In addition, Gio and Jodie Taylor are not registered for the Champions League, as Arsenal could only add three new players to their Champions League squad.
With Williamson, who had been playing in central midfield, out, Arsenal will turn to either Frida Maanum to drop deeper to play alongside Lia Wälti, or Victoria Pelova, or the 19-year old Kathrine Kühl, who has mostly been used from a wide position. Without the protection offered by Williamson and Wälti, look for Arsenal to deploy a back three, especially as the aim will be to keep the first leg tight, with Arsenal playing the second leg a week from Monday in front of over 45,000 at the Emirates Stadium.
Wolfsburg are second in the Frauen Bundesliga, a point behind Bayern Munich. Having knocked Arsenal out last year, their quality will be well known, and while Wolfsburg will be missing Alexandra Popp, Ewa Pajor has returned from injury and has been in fine form. Tabea Waßmuth, who scored 23 goals last season but only 7 this season, could take Popp’s place in the team, and Jule Brand, signed last summer, will be another attacking threat.
Arsenal will welcome Katie McCabe back to the team after she was suspended against Manchester United, and Steph Catley could be fit enough to start, having returned on Wednesday from a broken foot.
Predicted lineup (343): 1. Zinsberger; 3. Wubben-Moy, 5. Beattie, 2. Rafaelle; 16. Maritz, 12. Maanum 13. Wälti, 7. Catley; 21. Pelova, 15. McCabe; 25. Blackstenius
Substitutes: 14. D’Angelo (GK), 18. Marckese (GK), 5. Beattie, 22. Kühl, 26. Wienroither, 29. Goldie, 59. Agyemang, 62. Reid
WHAT: Wolfsburg Frauen v Arsenal Women, UEFA Women’s Champions League
WHERE: Volkswagen Arena
WHEN: Sunday, April 23rd 6:30 AM PST | 9:30 AM EST | 2:30 PM BST
WATCH: DAZN YouTube (Streaming)