Ladies Champions League preview: Top players, top test
news Wed 8 Nov 2017
For big European football action tonight, look no further than Kingsmeadow. Chelsea Ladies host Rosengard from Sweden there in a first-leg encounter, live on Chelsea TV and our YouTube channel…
It has been some start to the season for Chelsea. Although the Blues lost our most recent Champions League game against Bayern Munich, Fran Kirby's goal in Germany (viewable below) helped us to an away-goals victory to progress to the last 16. That result has been the only blemish on an otherwise perfect start to the campaign, in which we have won all seven domestic matches, scoring 24 and conceding one.
However, the most recent of those victories, a 2-1 Continental Tyres Cup win at Bristol City, was achieved thanks only to a stoppage-time penalty by Karen Carney and the performance was lacking both the free-flowing brilliance in attack and the rock-solid defensive play which has been present throughout the campaign so far.
Rosengard booked their place in the last 16 with a 5-0 win over Olimpia Cluj. Ebba Wieder scored the winner in the first leg in Romania and the Swedish side comfortably won at home thanks to goals from Anja Mittag, Iva Laneka, Hanna Folkesson and Glodis Viggosdottir. It was a milestone goal for Mittag, who became the first player to score 50 times in UEFA women’s club competition.
The club have already sealed their 2018/19 European place by finishing second in the Swedish league, having won their last match and drawn the previous two, although they cannot overtake Linkopings to win the title. Caretaker coach Malin Levenstad will step down after this tie to be replaced by the returning Jonas Eidevall.
VIEW FROM THE DUGOUT
Blues boss Emma Hayes is wary of the threat posed by Rosengard, but she knows when her side are at their best they will take some beating.
'It's a massive test for us against the third-top side in Europe and we know we're the underdogs, but we're playing well and we're unbeaten [domestically] so I'm sure our players are fully concentrated on the task ahead,' she said. 'It'll be a tight affair, but beating Bayern gives us great belief. But it will count for nothing if we don't progress through this stage.
'We have to be conscious of the fact that Rosengard have been a top team in Europe over the past 10 or 15 years and they probably have more experience than us, even if we're the team in the ascendancy.
'Kingsmeadow has fast become a home for us and hopefully it will be as noisy as the previous games, and I hope it's an entertaining game for the fans. It's going to be a brilliant night of European football with top internationals on show – and you won't be able to see a better game of football across the country tomorrow night.'
Both Chelsea and Rosengard will have players who are coming up against their former club in this tie. Blues goalkeeper Hedvig Lindahl spent three seasons with our opponents at the start of her career when they were known as Malmo and Ramona Bachmann spent half of her eight-year spell in Sweden representing the club, winning the title on three occasions. For part of her time with Rosengard, Bachmann called Anita Asante a team-mate. The experienced English defender, who can also play in midfield, played for Chelsea in the 2008/09 season and she recently announced her four-year stay in Malmo will be coming to an end shortly.
The two sides met earlier this year ahead of the Spring Series, playing out an entertaining 2-2 draw in Carshalton. Lotta Schelin gave the visitors the lead with virtually the first chance of the match, but the Blues battled back in the second half. Although Karen Carney saw her spot-kick saved, the England midfielder brilliantly made amends soon after when she volleyed home from Claire Rafferty's pass. We went ahead a few minutes later courtesy of a Katie Chapman strike from the edge of the box after being teed up by Crystal Dunn. There was a late twist, though, as Rosengard levelled late on through Ella Masar McLeod after the Blues only half cleared a corner.
CHAMPIONS LEAGUE HISTORY
Chelsea are taking part in the competition for the third straight year and this is the second time we have made it past the first hurdle. Our maiden participation was in 2015, when we beat Glasgow City at home and away to progress to a last-16 tie against two-time winners Wolfsburg, who had too much nous at this level for the Blues. It was a similar story when the two sides met again in 2016, this time in the last 32, although the Ladies made history in the first leg by playing their first competitive fixture at Stamford Bridge (pictured below).
In Rosengard's best Champions League campaign they reached the semi-finals in 2004, while the club was still known as Malmo. They have reached at least the quarter-finals in six of their previous seven participations in the competition, with last season's run coming to an end at the hands of Barcelona in the last-eight.
Chelsea Ladies v Rosengard kicks-off at 7.05pm at Kingsmeadow, Kingston, Surrey. Entry is £6 adults £3 seniors/juniors.
Chelsea TV is screening both legs live and tonight's game is also available via our YouTube channel.