How far can Scottish teams go in the Women's Champions League?
Background image: Ewan Bain. CC BY 4.0.
When it comes to European football, the Saltire isn’t the exclusive property of the Old Firm. Glasgow City and Hibernian LFC will also be carrying the Scottish flag onto the continental stage as they do battle in the Champions League round of 32. With Celtic and Rangers facing some tough group stages, could the women of Scotland bring European silverware back to their homeland?
Hibernian are in the sixth European campaign of their history, having reached the round of 32 for only the second time. Their last venture to this stage saw them lose 10-1 on aggregate to Bayern Munich. Indeed, Hibs are one of the only sides to provide even vague competition for Glasgow City, snatching the occasional cup from the jaws of their fellow European adventurers.
Hibs are a strong outfit, topping their Champions League group with three wins from three. Domestically, they’re in great form, having recently won 7-1 against crosstown rivals Hearts, as well as thumping Spartans 4-0.
But they’ll need to be at their best if they want to make it to the next round. They take on SK Slavia Praha, who reached the quarter-finals in last season’s Champions League. It’ll be a tough test for the Edinburgh outfit, but not an impossible task. Hibs’ defence is solid, conceding a mere nine goals in 14 games this term. The home leg will be played first at the 20,000 capacity Easter Road ground in Edinburgh. A partisan crowd will give Hibernian a boost, and with the home leg set to be played first, they could build up a good lead before travelling to the Czech Republic.
But Slavia’s squad is choc-full of star power including former Celtic and Sunderland defender Kylla Sjoman and 2011’s Czech player of the year, Veronika Pincova. Hibs will need to keep their efficient defensive unit working well and close out the attacking threat posed by their opponents.
If they do make it through, it’s difficult to see Hibernian beating any of the bigger European sides. The likes of Barcelona, Bayern Munich or PSG would make mince and tatties out of the plucky Scottish runners-up, and while there are certainly more beatable teams in the competition, Hibernian would need a loch full of luck to make it any further.
Aim: Round of 16
Glasgow are the dominant club in the SWPL, with 13 consecutive titles in the competition. They’ve experienced a few memorable European campaigns which included losing out to Barcelona in the last 16 this season, falling to a 5-0 defeat.
As Scottish champions, Glasgow were able to circumvent the group stages. But that may work against them. While routinely battering every other team in Scotland is great for morale, trouncing Edinburgh City 16-0 and Dundee City 20-0 isn’t the best way to get a squad into top condition.
To go one better than last season, they’ll need to vanquish Moscow outfit Chertanovo. The Russians are spending their first ever campaign in Europe, but they’re undoubtedly a team with quality.
Still, Glasgow will fancy their chances of advancing here. They’ve got a squad full of experienced players including recent members of the Scotland World Cup squad like keeper Lee Alexander, midfielder Joanne Love and forward Hayley Lauder. More importantly, they’re a team used to winning. They’ve become so used to shoving opponents aside, it’s become almost a habit, and Chertanovo could be their next victims.
The likes of Barcelona are still too big an ask for Glasgow, but they could make it past quite a few of the other sides in the later rounds. If they can keep their tight-knit squad of professionals together and ride their luck a little, Glasgow could be heading for their best run in Europe ever. This is as strong as their squad’s ever been and they only need a couple of wins to make it through the next few stages and change Scottish football forever.