STAGE IS SET WOMEN'S FINALE
Stamford Bridge is ready for another chapter to be written in the stadium's long and colourful history, with the UEFA Women's Champions League now less than 24 hours away.
The competition's distinctive banners, flags, arches and boards now cover the site, a special stage has been erected in the middle of the West Stand lower tier for the trophy presentation, and the pitch looks in fine condition for one of the most prestigious events in the global women's game.
Ticket sales have been good but seats can still be bought at the box office until 5pm on the day of the game, priced at £10 adults, £5 juniors and seniors. Kick-off is 7.30pm.
As is traditional for a UEFA match, the teams trained in the stadium and spoke to the media on Wednesday evening, and as it will be at Wembley on Saturday, German interest in the showpiece at Stamford Bridge is high, although Thursday's game is to be contested by only one club from that country - Wolfsburg - with their opponents the side that has dominated women's football on the European stage in recent times, Lyon from France.
'We have the chance to make history because never before has a team won this competition three years in a row, and we will do everything in our power to win,' said Lyon defender Sonia Bompastor, the captain senior member of their squad (pictured below right).
'London holds good memories for us, we won our first Champions League here so we have good memories of the city,' said their Swedish striker Lotte Schelin (below left), recently voted the player of the year in France.
This will be Lyon's fourth straight appearance in the final and five of their squad took part in the previous three. They beat Turbine Potsdam at Craven Cottage two years ago and Frankfurt in Munich last season. Their first final, in 2010 in Madrid, was also a France v Germany affair, with Potsdam winning on penalties on that occasion. Since it became a one-off game three years ago rather than a two-legged tie, the women's final has taken place in the same city as the men's.
This is the sixth time in a row there has been a German team involved, but it is Wolfsburg's debut. They beat Arsenal 4-1 on aggregate in the semi-final to make it back to London this week.
Wolfsburg coach Ralf Kellerman believes his side are the definite underdogs on Thursday evening and went as far as describing Lyon as probably the best women's team in the world.
The French club have dominated at home as well as in Europe, securing their seventh straight domestic title by winning every game so far this season, whereas Wolfsburg are an emerging force, winning the German league and cup double in the last fortnight, their first major trophies.
Three Wolfsburg players faced Lyon in previous finals while playing for Potsdam, including their captain Nadine Kessler (pictured below).
'I have been at the club for two seasons and I did think from the start that we could achieve this,' she said, 'but now sitting here with two titles, it is a great achievement and we have really worked hard for it.'
'This is my first Champions League final and we are enjoying the moment,' added midfielder Lena Goessling. 'Before the game we will be tense but we will show our best performance.'
Lyon coach Patrice Lair rates the German league as a higher standard overall than the French one because although he sees France catching up, he reckons only his side and Paris St-Germain can compete properly on the European stage.
'The English women's game is developing well,' he added, 'and Arsenal weren't too far from making the final.'