What Chelsea can learn from Champions League heartbreak ahead of Barcelona clash – Football.London

What Chelsea can learn from Champions League heartbreak ahead of Barcelona clash – Football.London


Chelsea are preparing for one of the most important matches in the club’s history, with European champions Barcelona traveling to Stamford Bridge in the UEFA Women’s Champions League (UWCL) semi-finals this weekend .

The Blues secured a historic 1-0 first-leg victory at the Estadi Olímpic on Saturday thanks to a superb strike from captain Erin Cuthbert. Barcelona were awarded a second-half penalty for handball by Kadeisha Buchanan, but the decision was overturned by VAR after Salma Paralluelo was ruled offside in the build-up.

It was Barcelona’s first home defeat since February 2019 and the first time they have failed to score in a match since April 2022. But, while the scale of the result is impossible to refute, we feels like it’s only a job half done. for Chelsea, with the west Londoners bracing for a big response when the teams meet in SW6 on Saturday afternoon.

“I’m not here to break records, no disrespect to Barcelona, ​​but it’s not a trophy for me,” Hayes said after the match. “We are here to compete for the Champions League and we are at half-time against the best team in the world, who did not have their best game today.”

If the Blues advance to the final, they will face either Lyon or Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) in a bid to win the club’s first-ever UWCL title. It would also represent Hayes’ last chance to win the competition as Chelsea manager before becoming head coach of the United States women’s national team at the end of the season.

With the club on the verge of making history, football.london takes a look back at some of Chelsea’s near misses in the UWCL.

Highlights as Chelsea hold lead over Barcelona in UWCL tie

2017/18: A first semi-final

After winning a maiden Women’s Super League (WSL) title in 2015, there was a feeling that it was only a matter of time before Chelsea took the next step. And so it proved as, in the 2017/18 season, the Blues reached the club’s first ever UWCL semi-final.

Having failed to progress past the round of 16 in previous years, Hayes’ side impressed by beating Bayern Munich, FC Rosengård and French side Montpellier to reach the last four. It was there that Chelsea came up against German giants VfL Wolfsburg, who had knocked them out. of the competition during the previous two seasons.

Unfortunately for the Blues, it was the same old story, with Wolfsburg winning the tie 5-1 on aggregate. Although the gap in quality between the two teams was obvious, the match showed Chelsea exactly what it took to excel in Europe and only served to make Hayes and co. eager for more success.

2022/23: Still the bridesmaid

Always the bridesmaid in Europe, it looked like Chelsea’s luck was about to change when they reached the semi-finals of the competition last season. After remaining undefeated in a tough group made up of PSG, Real Madrid and Albanian club KFF Vllaznia, the Blues faced defending champion and eight-time winner Lyon in the quarter-finals.

The French team eliminated Chelsea in the semi-final in 2019 and the Blues therefore went to Parc Olympique Lyonnais to take revenge on Sonia Bompastor’s side. They did just that in the first leg, winning 1-0 in France thanks to a superb finish from Guro Reiten.

“It’s crucial because this victory comes at the home of the European champions,” Hayes said after the match. “They’ve won so many times, so for us to take a 1-0 lead going into the home game, I can’t ask for more. I’m absolutely delighted.”

It was almost a heartbreaker for the Blues in the second leg as Vanessa Gilles restored parity in the draw at Stamford Bridge before Sara Dabritz gave Lyon the lead in extra time. But Maren Mjelde’s penalty in the 128th minute saw the match go to a shootout.

Lyon’s Wendie Renard and Chelsea’s Lauren James both had their penalties avoided, but Ann-Katrin Berger produced the decisive save from Lindsey Horan to put the Blues through and draw with Barcelona. And the Liga F champions made a perfect start to the match, with Caroline Graham Hansen scoring inside four minutes in west London.

Chelsea fought valiantly in the second leg at the Camp Nou, with Reiten leveling the game after Graham Hansen struck again in Catalunya, but they failed to force extra time. “Today I think the better team lost,” Hayes said after the match.

It was a valid statement from the Chelsea boss, but ultimately the Blues failed to take their chance and paid the price.

LEARN MORE: Chelsea set to do the unthinkable for Emma Hayes as Champions League progress clear

LEARN MORE: Emma Hayes disappointed despite Chelsea’s huge Women’s Champions League win over Barcelona

2020/21: Collapse in Gothenburg

Last season was not the first time that Chelsea saw their Champions League dream shattered by Barcelona. The two teams met in the final in 2021, with the Catalans winning 4-0 in Gothenburg.

After winning a second consecutive WSL title and the Continental League Cup that season, it was hoped that the Blues could transfer their excellent domestic form to the European stage. Hayes’ side had beaten Benfica, Atletico Madrid, Wolfsburg and Bayern Munch to reach their first ever UWCL final.

But it was a nightmare start in Sweden as Chelsea fell behind to a Melanie Leupolz own goal after just 33 seconds. The Blues struggled to recover and found themselves 4-0 down in 36 minutes.

They managed to close shop in the second half, but it was too little, too late for the west Londoners, who still appeared to have a way to go before winning the continent’s biggest prize.

“It’s been a wonderful season for us, today was difficult because the game was over before it started and that’s what’s so difficult to think about,” Hayes told BT Sport at the ‘era. “Congratulations to Barcelona, ​​they are worthy winners, they deserve their title and it is something we will learn from because it is the next step.”

Indeed, if ever there was a time to show he’s learned, it’s this weekend, when Jonatan Giraldez’s side travel to Stamford Bridge with a point to prove. If Chelsea can carry out their job, many will feel like they have an incredible chance of giving Hayes his fairy tale ending.

The second leg will be played on Saturday April 27 at Stamford Bridge and you can watch it live on DAZN.

You can watch the first leg of Lyon vs Paris Saint-Germain in the other semi-final on DAZN, here.



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