Monday 12 December 2022
We highlight four players with big roles as their teams chase quarter-final slots.
With the UEFA Women’s Champions League group stage in its decisive stage, we pick out four players crucial to their clubs’ hopes of quarter-final places.
Debutants Roma need a home point against St. Pölten to reach the quarter-finals, despite suffering a first-ever European loss at Wolfsburg last week. Even then, Roma ran the two-time continental champions close, the highlight of the game an audacious long-range lob by Andressa that got the visitors back to 2-1 at half-time.
Capped more than 100 times by Brazil, Andressa is no stranger to this competition, having played in the 2019 final for Barcelona just prior to joining Roma. Able to play in a number of attacking and midfield roles, her creativity and experience are vital elements as the UEFA competition newcomers aim to challenge the established giants.
Diani has been an attacking star for Paris since joining 2017, but this season the France winger has looked to fill the goalscoring gap left by her long-time club and country colleague Marie-Antointette Katoto, who has been absent through injury.
Bolstered by Sunday’s late winner at Lyon, Diani is top scorer in the French league currently, an honour taken by Katoto in three of the last four seasons. Moreover, Diani’s early double at Vllaznia last week gave her multiple goals in a European game for the first time. All eyes will be on her again when Real Madrid visit Parc des Princes on Friday, with Paris knowing a win would take them through.
Lyon have been without the likes of Ada Hegerberg and Catarina Macário in the group stage but other players have come to the fore as the French side have recovered from a difficult start to give themselves a chance of early progress when they visit Arsenal on Thursday. American midfielder Horan, who previously played for Paris, joined Lyon in January on an 18-month loan from Portland Thorns and helped them lift the Champions League trophy back in May, but it is in this campaign that she has really been starring.
She scored in the 1-1 Matchday 2 draw at Juventus that could prove the key to Lyon’s progress, and last week Horan set her side on the way to victory with an outrageous opening goal against Zürich that went through the legs of both a defender and the keeper. Her talent, experience, determination and eye for a crucial strike have all proved invaluable for an unfamiliar-looking Lyon.
Benfica might well need to defeat Barcelona to remain in contention but the fact that a quarter-final remains a possibility for the Eagles is significant given that they lost 9-0 to last season’s runners-up on the opening night, and then let a two-goal lead slip in a home defeat against Bayern. Home and away wins against Rosengård have transformed Benfica’s fortunes, and Lacasse has played a big part.
The Canadian forward had a knack of scoring important goals in qualifying both last season and this, and all six points Benfica took off Rosengård were in some part down to her. Lacasse got the only goal in the home win and then struck twice last week in a 3-1 victory in Sweden, turning a 30th-minute deficit into a half-time lead. Barcelona are an entirely different prospect but Lacasse, capped 15 times by the Olympic champions and a childhood fan of the Blaugrana, will give the Group D leaders something to think about.
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