There is no need for fancy scenarios or the need to break out potential tiebreakers for Juventus Women on Wednesday night. Things are very simple if Juve wants to see their European campaign go beyond their Women’s Champions League group stage finale.
Win and you’re in.
That’s it. That’s what it will take.
Sounds pretty gosh-dang simple, doesn’t it?
But then you remember who the Juventus women are facing Wednesday night ... annnnnnd things aren’t as simple as they first sounded as they were about 25 seconds ago. That’s because Juve’s opponent Wednesday night just so happens to be the club directly in front of them in Group C of the Women’s Champions League and the reigning European champions, Lyon. Yes, Lyon. Almighty Lyon, the most-accomplished club in the women’s game in Europe and a club that just beat group leaders Arsenal ... in London.
In short, this is like a knockout round fixture even before the knockout rounds arrive. Or, better yet, it’s like a knockout round fixture to get into the knockout rounds against the same club that eliminated the Juve women in the quarterfinals last season, ending their historic run in Joe Montemurro’s first year in charge after the drama that was the wild first leg in Turin.
It’s almost fitting for Lyon to be the club standing in between Juventus and a second straight appearance in the UWCL quarterfinals based on their history in this competition.
It’s not necessarily good history outside of the heroics that took place in the first leg of last season’s quarterfinal matchup. But it’s history, and this season is another test of just how far Juventus’ project that now suddenly involves expectations in Europe has come.
Juventus trails Lyon by two points in the Group C standings, thus the reason why only a win of any sort is the way the Bianconere can get to the knockout round. And unlike last season when there were three teams fighting for two spots, Arsenal has already qualified for the quarterfinals, which takes one potential scenario out of the mix. (On top of the fact that Arsenal is playing FC Zürich, which has yet to get a single point in the group stage.)
The good news?
For one, Lineth Beerensteyn — one of Juventus’ key players during the group stage this season — was training with the group after initial worries she might miss the showdown with Lyon after being on the receiving end of a nasty tackle in last week’s with over Zürich. Secondly, Cristiana Girelli has suddenly come alive and rediscovered the goal-scoring form that can carry Juventus’ attack if given the opportunity to do just that. (And after a four-goal outing just a few days ago against Zürich, you know Juve’s No. 10 is feeling awfully confident about where her form is at.)
The bad news?
This version of Lyon is not looking like the same one that Juve played to a draw or got blown out by Arsenal on the opening day of the group stage. (Which, in retrospect, makes you wish that Juve had come away with three points rather than just one when the two teams met back in Turin in late October.) They’re healthier than they were two months ago. They have improved their overall form. These two things are very much connected and the win over Arsenal last week is very much proof of just that.
This why Juve’s group was thought of to be one of the toughest ones out there when the draw first took place.
And it has yet to do much of anything to make people think otherise.
So now as we hit the final day of the group stage, we’re left with two teams who are fighting for the last spot in the UWCL quarterfinals.
The current Serie A Femminile leaders have already gotten there. The team Roma is trying to dethrone domestically wants to join the party. And there will be plenty of reasons to celebrate if that does happen — especially if it’s done against the club that has ruled this competition for years.