Manchester City were knocked out by Real Madrid in the Women’s Champions League qualifying rounds for two successive seasons
Manchester City manager Gareth Taylor says it is a “shame” to “lose teams of a good standard” before the group stages of the Women’s Champions League because of the competition’s format.
League champions Chelsea are the only English side in the group stages.
Manchester United were knocked out by Paris St-Germain in second-round qualifying and Arsenal were beaten by Paris FC in the first round.
“I don’t think it’s just us in the WSL, other teams have fallen foul,” he said.
There has been debate over the current Women’s Champions League qualification format, which guarantees a more difficult route for unseeded teams – those who have not won their domestic leagues.
Only the champions of Spain, Germany and France qualify automatically for the group stages.
Women’s Super League champions Chelsea qualified this season because Barcelona had already secured their place by winning last year’s competition.
“It’s a shame because you lose teams of a good standard who should probably be in the group stage,” said Taylor.
“It’s obviously an inclusion thing, where everybody has an opportunity. But I think what it does is, we tend to lose probably the better teams at an earlier stage than needs be.”
Manchester City, who missed out on Champions League qualification on goal difference when finishing fourth in the league last season, suffered defeat by Real Madrid in back-to-back campaigns in the European qualifying rounds in 2021 and 2022.
Last year’s semi-finalists Arsenal were stunned by Paris FC at the first stage this season, and the French side went on to knock out 2022-23 runners-up Wolfsburg in the second qualifying round.
United, who were competing in Europe for the first time, could not overcome two-time finalists PSG in their two-legged tie on Wednesday.
“You’ve heard it from me before – probably people weren’t listening then – and now it repeats itself this season,” added Taylor.
“We don’t want to go through that. If we have to, we have to. But we want to win the league, not mess about with qualifiers. We drew Real Madrid and then again the following season, it’s incredible.
“Our objective is win the WSL and take away that uncertainty.”
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‘It’s crazy we have to play PSG at this stage’
Marc Skinner’s comments caused controversy after Manchester United failed to beat Paris St-Germain
Prior to United’s meeting with PSG, manager Marc Skinner said “English teams have a much harder qualification route than other teams” and said some ties were a “free-hit” to enter the group stages.
The current format provides league winners from across Europe an opportunity, but the design of the “champions path” and the “leagues path” means several big clubs are drawn against each other, while other teams play lower-ranked sides.
It led to some high-scoring ties with Eintracht Frankfurt beating Sparta Praha 8-0 on aggregate, Roma beating Vorskla 9-1, Slavia Praha knocking out Olimpia Cluj 11-0 and Ajax going through with an 8-0 win over Zurich.
“We deserve to be at this level, I’ve no doubt about that. There are teams going through to this [group stage] that are not good enough,” said Skinner following their 4-2 aggregate defeat by PSG.
“Our standard is better than that standard, and it’s crazy that we have to play PSG at this qualifying round, crazy. It needs to be something that’s addressed.
“You saw how hard we had to work last year to get into a qualifying round? It’s crazy, right? Look how far Arsenal went last year, look how far Chelsea went, and yet we’re still having to qualify? It doesn’t work.
“Wolfsburg have gone out – they were in the final last year. Mad, that can’t happen right? I don’t think right now the best teams are getting out of these qualifying rounds.
“I think if you put any of the top four [in the WSL] from last season against any team in Europe, I think they’d hold their own. I don’t think it’s a reflection on our league. In fact, I think it’s more difficult to qualify from our league than many of the others.”
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