The 2018/19 season begins for Chelsea Women today when they take on Brighton in the Continental Cup, and we bring you a full preview, including words from one of our new signings, ahead of the game...
Chelsea Women embarked on a mini-tour at the start of August, which included matches against Montpellier and Barcelona to give the players a tune-up against higher-tier opposition. Although the conditions were not ideal – the heatwave in the UK at the time paled in comparison to the temperatures in the south of France and across the border in Spain – the fixtures put valuable minutes in the legs of the players and the quality seen last season was certainly evident once again.
Although Montpellier got the better of us in a high-scoring fixture, Erin Cuthbert and Ji So-Yun scored excellent goals, while our 1-1 draw with Barcelona was secured by a wonderful diving header from Karen Carney with the last action of the game [video below].
A return to Kingsmeadow followed a few days later as we took on a Juventus side with Blues legend Eniola Aluko in their ranks, and a win was secured thanks to wonderful goals from three of our stars of last season: Ramona Bachmann, Maren Mjelde and Fran Kirby.
While Chelsea Women have been involved in the Women’s Super League since its inception, this is Brighton’s maiden campaign at this level. In fact, for the first time in the club’s history, their men's senior team, under-23s, under-18s and women’s team will compete in the top flight of their respective league pyramids in the same season. Albion were granted a place in the FA WSL after applying for top-tier status last season, and they finished second in the second level of the WSL at the end of 2017/18.
The Blues brought in five new players during the summer transfer window, adding further depth to the squad in a bid to continue our domestic success and go one step further in the Women’s Champions League. Jess Carter [pictured below], Lizzie Durack, Adelina Engman, Sophie Ingle and Ali Riley have all come in, with Riley the only one of our new arrivals not to feature in pre-season due to injury.
It should be noted, though, that we have lost some experienced players from our squad. Captain Katie Chapman hung up her boots, while Eni Aluko, Gemma Davison, Gilly Flaherty, Claire Rafferty and Becky Spencer all moved on. However, once you take Chapman out of the equation the players listed above started only 52 matches between them last season. That works out at an average of roughly 10 per player, out of a possible 37.
Brighton already had a big ex-Chelsea contingent in their ranks prior to their rise to the top tier of English football, but that has swelled over the summer. Dani Buet, Jenna Legg, Sophie Perry and Laura Rafferty were already at the club, while goalkeeper Marie Hourihan finished last season on loan with the Seagulls. They have also added Jodie Brett and Victoria Williams to the collection. Proving that playing for Chelsea is not a pre-requisite, Hope Powell also signed highly rated youngster Ellie Brazil from Fiorentina, London Bees goalkeeper Sophie Harris and the more experienced Emily Simpkins and Kayleigh Green.
VIEW FROM THE DRESSING ROOM
Ingle [pictured below] will be looking to make her first competitive start for Chelsea since returning to the club in the summer. The Welsh captain’s performance against Juventus was praised by Hayes and now she’s looking to take that form into the season proper.
‘It’s been tough getting used to new routines and a new training intensity, but it’s been really good and the girls are great here, so we’re ready to push on with the start of the season,’ she said.
‘I’ve settled in nicely, I like where I live. Training has been great, and that’s the main thing because I’m here to play football. I want to push myself and to push the team. It’s tough, because there are 24 great players here and the majority are internationals, so to get a place in the team and hold it down is difficult.
'But if we push each other in training we can only get the best results we hope for. Training is out of this world, nothing like I’ve experienced before. All of the players are quality and it doesn’t matter what team you’re up against in training, it’s going to be tough opposition.
‘We expect to be competing for every trophy, but it’s good pressure. You have to put that on yourselves both individually and as a team and you have to set targets.’
The two sides met in the group stage of the Continental Tyres Cup last term, with Lancing the venue. It proved a very comfortable win for the Blues, even if it took until late in the game for the scoreline to reflect the balance of play.
Kirby volleyed us ahead after only 13 minutes and though the home side battled gamely, the Blues always looked the more likely side to score next. After Kirby hit the bar and Mjelde saw a long-range effort brilliantly tipped wide, Crystal Dunn made no mistake with a thunderous strike from inside the box which rocketed into the top corner. A precise effort from Ji in injury time completed the scoring.
- Today's game kicks off at 2pm at Kingsmeadow and tickets are available on arrival.