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Wolfsburg and Bayern primed to deliver Champions League

October 18, 2022

In a Champions League season in which there is no clear favorite, both Wolfsburg and Bayern Munich have the chance to reclaim the trophy for a German side. It has been seven years since a Bundesliga team won the title.

Wolfsburg celebrate a goal
Wolfsburg are primed to challenge for the Champions League this seasonImage: Andreas Gora/dpa/picture alliance

Wolfsburg and Bayern Munich remain the teams to beat in the Bundesliga, but this season both are presented with a huge opportunity to show the same is true in the UEFA Women's Champions League (UWCL).

Eight-time winners and defending champions Lyon pose an obvious threat, but with Barcelona signing European champions Lucy Bronze and Keira Walsh and with Paris Saint-Germain equally primed to challenge, there is no clear favorite. And with seven of the 16 teams in this season's group stages different than last season, it's clear that competition is increasing across the continent.

For Wolfsburg and Bayern, this is less a threat to their European ambitions and more a chance to show they too belong among a group of contenders. With both sides handed favorable draws, the time for either to really challenge for a Champions League title has arrived.

"Both teams have legitimate hopes of advancing very, very far (in the competition)," Wolfsburg's head of sport Ralf Kellerman recently said.

Close and closer

Wolfsburg got better this season, bringing back goalkeeper Merle Frohms, signing veteran defender Marina Hegering from rivals Bayern on a free and recruiting young star Jule Brand. They also have Lena Oberdorf, one of the best central midfielders in the world, in the middle of the park. Captain Alexandra Popp believes the squad is stronger than it has been at any point in the last decade and it's hard to disagree.

Wolfsburg's issue has never been competing, but rather finishing. They have made at least the quarterfinals in all 10 seasons since their debut in Europe, but have lost their last three finals, including one on penalties and another after extra time.

If ever there was a team that was within touching distance of another Champions League title it was Wolfsburg, as their semifinal exit to Barcelona last season proved. Overwhelmed in the first leg, Wolfsburg won the second to show that the gap was much closer than was on show in front of 91, 648 fans in the Camp Nou.

Bayern are a little bit behind Wolfsburg's development cycle, but a lot further along than most second-best sides in a country. Dethroning Wolfsburg to the Bundesliga title the season before last showed they were no pushovers, even if it also forced Wolfsburg to get even better. This season it promises to be the same close fight domestically, but with the arrival of European champion Georgia Stanway and new coach Alexander Straus, Bayern are an intriguing prospect. Straus in particular looks the most important piece for Bayern in their attempt to get to the next level, and the Norwegian will have to balance the domestic title race with the challenge of European glory.

Last season they pushed Paris to the limit in the quarterfinals, but the hope is to go one better this time around.

Bayern Munich's Georgia Stanway on the ball
Georgia Stanway is a big signing that Bayern hope can take them to the next levelImage: Markus Fischer/Passion2Press/IMAGO

A well-timed legacy

A UEFA report on women's football from this summer revealed that last season's UWCL final had a 56% increase in audience compared to the previous final. This season, with all 61 games being broadcast by DAZN and YouTube and more games being played in bigger stadiums — Bayern's group games against Barcelona will be played in the 76,000 capacity Allianz Arena in Munich and Barcelona's Camp Nou — it's clear that the UWCL is driving the women's game forward after a summer of unprecedented interest.

"The success of the Champions League last year played its part in the success of the Euro, and now we hope for the same effect the other way," Nadine Kessler, UEFA's head of women's football, recently told the German news agency DPA.

For Bayern and Wolfsburg, their ascent to the summit of European glory could be perfectly timed. For Popp, it would be the greatest revenge for lost finals and perhaps the perfect final chapter in a legendary career. For Bayern, it would be the culmination of years of work. And for German football generally, victory for either of these two would also serve as reminder to those in charge that with further professionalisation across Bundesliga clubs in Germany, Champions League winners from the Bundesliga can be a regular sight.

Edited by: Davis VanOpdorp