Having suffered a 3-1 home defeat at the hands of Olympique Lyonnais in the UEFA Women’s Champions League, Manchester City have it all to do if they are to reach their first ever continental final at the expense of the reigning champions.
After powering past the likes of Russian side Zvezda 2005 Perm and Danish duo Brondby IF and Fortuna Hjorring, Nick Cushing’s Manchester City side weren’t prepared for the step up in quality that they faced against Lyon. A goal within two minutes put them on the back foot and they ultimately failed to recover.
Despite their shortcomings, the club still have a chance to recover this weekend, as the two sides gear up for what is bound to be a thrilling second leg.
Heading into the fixture, much of the talk has focused on Carli Lloyd and Alex Morgan — two stars of the United
States women’s national team, who will line up against each other once a
gain on Saturday.
Lloyd is widely regarded as the world’s best player right now, while Morgan isn’t far behind. Given their stature, it comes as little surprise that the battle between them has somewhat overshadowed the clash between two of Europe’s most well constructed teams. Yet, it is between the sticks where the game is most likely to be won or lost.
Guarding the goal for Manchester City will be England number 1 Karen Bardsley, who helped the Three Lions to reach the semi-final stage of the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup for the first time in their history.
With a long club career spent playing across Europe and North America, Bardsley has made a name for herself as one of the most reliable keepers in the game. In fact, it was surprising to see Bardsley concede three goals in a single game last week, regardless of Lyon’s quality, given that she conceded just four goals throughout the entirety 2016 Women’s Super League campaign.
The veteran shot-stopper will know all too well that she needs to put in a much better shift in the second leg. However, even if the English shot-stopper can keep the ball out of her net, Manchester City will still have to score three goals down the other end in order to progress.
The likes of Lloyd, Keira Walsh and Toni Duggan will be squaring up against French international Sarah Bouhaddi, who has been in charge of protecting the Lyon sticks since 2009. Throughout that time, Bouhaddi has made 38 appearances in the Women’s Champions League and has an incredible haul of three winners’ medals to her name.
Despite an ACL injury almost bringing an end to her career in her debut season for the club, Bouhaddi has recovered to stake her claim as one of the world’s best goalkeepers. Having conceded just three goals in the entire tournament so far, scoring past her three times on Saturday is a big ask from Manchester City.
Regardless of the final score, with an abundance of attacking quality in both teams and two experienced goalkeepers with plenty to offer guarding the goals, this game will be a tense and exciting affair for soccer fans.