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Champions League: Chelsea, Manchester City & Glasgow City prepare for last 32

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Rachel McLauchlan, Ellen White and Sam Kerr (left to right)
Rachel McLauchlan, Ellen White and Sam Kerr (left to right) are expected to be key for the British clubs in this season’s Champions League

The Women’s Champions League starts on Wednesday as Chelsea and Manchester City join qualifiers Glasgow City in the last 32 of the competition.

Holders – and seven-time winners – Lyon and last season’s runners-up Wolfsburg are among those to enter at this stage.

Each tie is played over two legs, with the first two rounds seeded before an open draw from the quarter-finals.

No British side has reached the final since 2007 with Arsenal going furthest last season, losing in the last eight.

BBC Sport assesses the British teams’ prospects and profiles the other sides to watch.

Chelsea (v Benfica – 9 & 16 December)

  • Champions League 2019-20: Did not qualify
  • Furthest reached in competition: Semi-finals (2017-18, 2018-19)
  • Women’s Super League position: 3rd (1st in 2019-20)

Emma Hayes’ Chelsea are back among the European elite after winning last season’s curtailed Women’s Super League title on a points-per-game ratio.

They disappointingly failed to qualify last season but reached the last four of the competition in the previous two campaigns, narrowly losing 3-2 on aggregate to dominant force Lyon in 2018-19.

In this season’s last 32, Chelsea take on unseeded Portuguese champions Benfica, who are making their Champions League debut after coming through qualifying and will host the first leg in Lisbon.

With Australia superstar forward Sam Kerr now settled and scoring, and having signed arguably Europe’s best player in Denmark captain Pernille Harder, Chelsea will be expected to go through without too much trouble and at least equal their best performance in the competition.

Manchester City (v Gothenburg – 9 & 16 December)

  • Champions League 2019-20: Last 16 (lost to Atletico Madrid)
  • Furthest reached in competition: Semi-finals (2016-17, 2017-18)
  • WSL position: 4th (2nd in 2019-20)

Manchester City will hope to finish their Champions League campaign in the same place where they start it on Wednesday – the Swedish city of Gothenburg, which will also host the final in May.

Having reached the last four of the competition in 2016-17 and 2017-18 – losing to eventual winners Lyon on both occasions – they have been unfortunate to draw Spanish giants Atletico Madrid in the early rounds of each of the past two seasons and suffer elimination.

But Gareth Taylor’s side have strengthened significantly, re-signing BBC’s Women’s Footballer of the Year Lucy Bronze, as well as adding fellow England full-back Alex Greenwood and US World Cup-winning midfield pair Rose Lavelle and Sam Mewis.

They are fourth in the WSL after an inconsistent start to the campaign but should have too much quality for last 32 opponents Gothenburg and, like Chelsea, will be expecting to go deep in the competition this season.

Glasgow City (v Sparta Prague – 9 & 16 December)

  • Champions League 2019-20: Quarter-finals (lost to Wolfsburg)
  • Furthest reached in competition: Quarter-finals (2014-15, 2019-20)
  • Scottish Women’s Premier League position: 1st (1st in 2019-20)

Scottish champions Glasgow City may not have the household names of their English counterparts but, against the odds, they reached the last eight in 2019-20 before a humbling 9-1 defeat by eventual runners-up Wolfsburg.

They had to come through two rounds of qualifying to reach this stage – needing penalties to overcome Irish side Peamount and Valur, of Iceland – and have a handy knack of hanging in there to get the job done.

Glasgow, like Chelsea and Manchester City, are seeded in the last 32 and face Czech side Sparta Prague, with the perceived advantage of being at home in the second leg.

With many clubs across Europe investing heavily in their squads it feels a big ask for them to repeat their Champions League heroics of last season, but they have the winning habit domestically – with 13 consecutive titles – and have the ability to pull off a shock.

Who else to look out for?

Lucy Bronze of Lyon
England’s Lucy Bronze has returned to Manchester City after winning three Champions League titles with Lyon

You have to start with Lyon, who have won the past five Champions League titles and have been French champions for the past 14 seasons.

They are showing no signs of a decline, with a spine of France centre-back Wendie Renard, Germany midfielder Dzsenifer Marozsan and Norway striker Ada Hegerberg, and England’s Nikita Parris also a handful in attack.

But Lyon are not quite unbeatable – last month their 80-game unbeaten streak was ended as they fell to their first defeat in Division 1 Feminine in almost four years at the hands of Paris St-Germain, who must therefore also be in the reckoning.

Two-time winners Wolfsburg have been runners-up in three of the past four seasons but have been dented by the departure of star player Harder and are currently second in the German league below fellow contenders Bayern Munich, while Barcelona won their first Spanish title in five years last season and will expect to at least reach the last four again, having done so on four occasions – and gone on to the final in 2018-19 before losing to Lyon.

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