Chelsea are the only English side in the Women’s Champions League this season
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Chelsea have been drawn against Real Madrid and Arsenal’s conquerors Paris FC in the Women’s Champions League group stage.
Emma Hayes’ side, beaten finalists in 2021, will also face Swedish outfit Hacken in Group D.
French side Paris beat last season’s semi-finalists Arsenal on penalties in the first qualifying round on their way to this phase of the competition for the first time.
Neighbours Paris Saint-Germain, who dispensed with WSL runners-up Manchester United in the second qualifying round, have been drawn in Group C along with Bayern Munich, Roma and Ajax.
Eight-times winners Lyon face Slavia Prague, St Polten and Brann – who beat Scottish champions Glasgow City to reach this stage for the first time – while reigning champions Barcelona were paired with Rosengard, Benfica and Eintracht Frankfurt.
Chelsea were beaten by Barcelona in last season’s semi-finals, following a memorable quarter-final victory against the holders Lyon.
Meanwhile, Manchester United manager Marc Skinner clarified his comments around the Champions League qualifying format after suggesting it was “crazy” United played PSG in a qualifying round.
After finishing second in the Women’s Super League last season, United went through the competition’s qualifying rounds and were knocked out at the second hurdle on Wednesday night after being beaten 4-2 on aggregate by PSG
Last year’s WSL winners Chelsea earned an automatic group spot, while third-placed Arsenal went into the qualifiers, where they were eliminated by Paris FC in the first round.
Skinner said: “My comment was much more about the breadth and quality, I believe there is a need for more teams to be in this competition, and then you’ll see who is average and who isn’t.
“Who knows, we might have been average in a group stage, you don’t know that. If there was any offence taken then I’m sorry for that, but that’s not what I meant.
“What I meant, and I’ll be clear on it, was I think there should be a broader scope of teams and there should be more teams in this competition so that we can actually then see where the elite level lies within Europe.
“I still think that’s a bit cloudy because the reality is, if we were playing a team that are from – what people might believe- to be a league that doesn’t have the experience, then we don’t know until we’ve played those, we only ever play those teams in friendlies.
“If you really want the real quality from all of the European leagues to rise, then you’ve got to play them against each other, which I think now other teams are ready for.
“If you enter that stage and are getting through, then congratulations. We’re not there so we can talk about what that looks like, but they are there so congratulations to everyone who’s gone through.”
Chelsea are now the only WSL team left in the competition, and Arsenal manager Jonas Eidevall believes that English teams need to improve.
He told a press conference: “We’re number four in Europe [in UEFA’s coefficient rankings]. We can’t say that’s anyone else’s problem except our own. We need to improve, English teams have not done well enough in Europe.
“The Conti Cup group that Manchester United are in now might be tougher than some Women’s Champions League groups. But [UEFA] need to grow all of women’s football in Europe – that’s really important. They can’t only take [WSL] opinions into account.”
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