Roma Women are playing in the Champions League group stage for the first time in 2022 and the draw on Monday 3rd October seemed relatively kind.
One of the four lowest seeds due to their lack of history on this stage, by the time Roma were drawn out of the hat, they could either have gone into Group A or Group B.
The former would have put them up against Chelsea, Paris Saint-Germain and Real Madrid, which would have been a frightening task. After a fortunate draw to get into this round, though, luck was on Roma’s side again.
Instead, the Giallorosse are in the same group as Wolfsburg, Slavia Prague and St. Polten for the group stage.
Here is all you need to know about each opponent.
How they qualified: Winners of the 2021-22 Frauen Bundesliga, Wolfsburg were one of just four teams to earn automatic qualification for the group stage.
Best Champions League campaign: Wolfsburg have gone all the way on two occasions, winning the Champions League in consecutive seasons, 2012-13 and 2013-14. They have also been runners up three times, most recently in 2020.
Most recent Champions League campaign: The German side reached the semi-final last season, losing 5-3 on aggregate to eventual runners up Barcelona. The damage was done after a 5-1 first-leg loss, but they restored some pride by winning the second leg 2-0.
Key player: Several members of the Germany national team ply their trade for Wolfsburg. The country’s captain Alexandra Popp – who missed the Euro 2022 final due to injury, but still finished as the competition’s joint-leading scorer – is among their attacking options, for example.
Roma connection: Roma signed Vanessa Bernauer from Wolfsburg upon their own formation in 2018. The Swiss midfielder had won one Bundesliga title and three cups during her time in Germany. She spent four seasons in Italy, scoring the winning penalty in the 2021 Coppa Italia final, before leaving over the summer.
How they qualified: Roma came up against Slavia’s rivals Sparta Prague in the last round of qualification to reach the group stage. Slavia finished above Sparta in the 2021-22 Czech Women’s First League to claim the title and go straight to Round 2 of qualification in the Champions Path. There, they narrowly beat Icelandic side Valur 1-0 on aggregate.
Best Champions League campaign: On three occasions, Slavia have reached the quarter-final of the Champions League. In 2015-16, they were beaten then by Lyon; in 2017-18, they coincidentally lost to Wolfsburg; and in 2018-19, they were knocked out by Germans again – this time Bayern Munich.
Most recent Champions League campaign: Like this season, Slavia went into Round 2 for last term’s Champions League, but that would be as far as they got. Arsenal – who would eventually be knocked out by none other than Wolfsburg in the quarter-final – hammered them 7-0 on aggregate to prevent them reaching the group stage.
Key player: Roma will have to be wary of experienced attacker Tereza Kozarova, who is a full Czech Republic international. She scored the goal that got Slavia to this stage and previously notched six and five goals respectively in the 2018-19 and 2019-20 editions of this competition.
How they qualified: Dominant in the Austrian OFB-Frauenliga in recent years, St. Polten retained their title in 2021-22, so started out in Round 1 of the Champions Path in qualification. They won their semi-final against Ljuboten from Macedonia 7-0, before dispatching of Belarussian side Dinamo-BGU Minsk 3-0 in the final to reach Round 2. Then, they beat KuPS from Finland 3-2 on aggregate, having required extra time in the second leg.
Best Champions League campaign: St. Polten have been regular features in the early rounds of the Champions League in recent years. They have, though, only ever reached the Round of 16 of the competition’s previous format – essentially the equivalent of where they are now – once before. That was in 2020-21, when they lost to Swedish opponents Rosengard.
Most recent Champions League campaign: St. Polten fell victims to an Italian side in Round 1 of last season’s Champions League. Having thrashed Turkish representatives Besiktas in their semi-final with a 7-0 win, they were denied entry to the next round by losing 4-1 to Juventus.
Key player: One player to watch out for is midfielder Mateja Zver; she captains the Slovenia national team and is something of a goal getter. Indeed, she scored all three of her side’s goals in the last round of qualification.
Roma connection: Although no player has ever represented both clubs, the meeting between the two will give Roma’s Austrian defender Carina Wenninger the chance to represent her new side in her native country. In addition, she will be coming up against former Bayern Munich teammate Jasmin Eder.
Roma Women Champions League schedule
Roma v Slavia Prague (20th October, 8pm UK time)
St. Polten v Roma (26th October, 5:45pm UK time)
Roma v Wolfsburg (23rd November, 8pm UK time)
Wolfsburg v Roma (8th December, 5:45pm UK time)
Roma v St. Polten (16th December, 5:45pm UK time)
Slavia Prague v Roma (22nd December, 5:45pm UK time)