Unexpected gift for Van Dongen in Orange-coloured Champions League

“2020 is such a bizarre year: then all these things can become reality.” Merel van Dongen summarises the situation aptly in the run-up to her last days of the current football season.

Having in mind the place of action, there is another clear difference with the men’s tournament: the clubs have been able to add six new players to last season’s selection. A decision that suits Van Dongen perfectly.

From relegant to top

She started this season at Real Betis in Seville and signed last month with Atlético Madrid, one of the current quarter finalists in the Champions League. After a year of fighting relegation, she can still compete in the final phase of the prestigious tournament.

“I am very happy with that of course, for me individually it is a bizarre situation. I’m counting myself extra rich with this opportunity, so I’m going to do everything I can to take advantage of it.”

“That meant we spent ten days of this important preparation at home. Moreover, all those five players are now not in the selection and we had to cancel a number of practice games. Not an ideal preparation for the quarterfinals.”

Dutch conversation

Therein Lieke Martens’ FC Barcelona is the opponent. It’s one of the many Dutch players in this tournament: six of the eight quarter finalists play national team players. Arsenal has most of them under contract: Vivianne Miedema, Jill Roord and Daniëlle van de Donk.

Olympique Lyonnais, the club of Shanice van de Sanden and the Norwegian superstar Ada Hegerberg, won the tournament the last four years and is again the big favourite.

But the level of the clubs is closer than ever. For example, Dominique Janssen is one of the big challengers in the Wolfsburg shirt.

Janssen does have an advantage over most of her opponents: the German Bundesliga was killed despite the corona crisis, while for her colleagues in England, France and Spain the season was broken off.

“Together with Bayern Munich (where Lineth Beerensteyn plays) we are the only team that has played soccer. That can be a huge advantage”, says Janssen, who became champion of Germany and scored in the cup final.

“But we have to wait in this knockout phase. For an EK or WK you never know who’s going to win. You have to get into a flow to finally get that title.”