We preview today’s Women’s Champions League tie in Bosnia, which takes place at 3pm UK time. You can follow the Blues’ progress on our Twitter page @ChelseaFCW
After nine goals in our opening two matches of the 2018/19 season, which both took place in the Continental Tyres League Cup, the Blues were held to a goalless draw to kick off the defence of our Women’s Super League. Manchester City, who finished second last term, were our opponents at Kingsmeadow in an evenly contested match. Although both sides had periods of domination, Emma Hayes will point to her side having the better chances, while Karen Bardsley was certainly the busier of the two keepers.
Sarajevo come into this game having recorded back-to-back 5-0 wins away from home in the Bosnian top flight, which they are looking to win for the 17th season in a row. They have won four of their five matches this term by that scoreline, including two of their three Champions League qualifiers.
Sarajevo were ranked 24th out of the 32 teams taking part and they booked their spot in the competition proper after topping a four-team qualifying group, winning all three of their matches.
They secured their 16th domestic championship on the bounce in 2017/18, taking the title by 24 points after failing to win only one of their 20 matches.
Several of our England internationals, plus Wales captain Sophie Ingle, will have come against members of the Sarajevo squad – including Amira Spahic, who captains her national team – as the two countries were in the same World Cup qualification group as Bosnia and Herzegovina. Fran Kirby was on target from the penalty spot in a 4-0 victory for the Lionesses last November, which was followed by a 2-0 win in April.
This will be the first fixture between the sides and also our longest away trip in Europe by quite some distance; more than 1,000 miles separates London and Sarajevo, surpassing the 600 miles we travelled when facing Malmo-based Rosengard in Sweden last season.
VIEW FROM THE DRESSING ROOM
Goalkeeper Hedvig Lindahl (pictured below) looks forward to the tie: ‘We were seeded this time and though we haven't been given a Bayern Munich or a Wolfsburg, you still have to win. We should be able to go through this round, but every away game is tough and it's a different type of football. We played Bosnia with the Swedish national team and won 1-0, I think with a penalty, so it's tough. I hope we can do a good job.
‘A good result out there will be any win, but a clean sheet would be nice. We know we'll be playing the second leg at Kingsmeadow, so we're confident. We had 2,500 fans for the City game and it's lovely. I've been here for a few seasons and you can see how the numbers have grown steadily. The investment has been put in by the league and it's showing in the stands.’
ELSEWHERE IN EUROPE
While Chelsea can legitimately have claimed to be in the tie of the round in each of our previous Champions League assignments, this time that honour goes to our fellow WSL side Manchester City, who take on Spanish champions Atletico Madrid.
The other British interest at this stage comes from Scotland, as Glasgow Celtic meet competition debutants Somatia Barcelona from Cyprus. Both clubs are among 10 who came through the qualifying round.
Juventus, who we faced in pre-season, also make their Champions League debut when they come up against Brondby, the first team to compete in the knockout phase 15 times. The Italian side, of course, have former Chelsea striker Eniola Aluko in their ranks.
Lyon and Wolfsburg are the only former winners involved in this season’s competition while Paris Saint-Germain, Fortuna and Zvezda have all previously reached the final.
CHELSEA'S HISTORIC RUN
Lyon became the first five-time winners, and the only side to have claimed the Champions League three years in a row, when they ran out 4-1 victors in last season's final against Wolfsburg, who were the Blues’ conquerors in the semi-finals.
The run to the last four represented a competition best for Emma Hayes and her squad and it began with a memorable tie against Bayern Munich in the last 32. Drew Spence’s early goal gave us the perfect start at Kingsmeadow and Fran Kirby’s opener in Germany helped us to progress on away goals.
It was rather more straightforward when we took on Rosengard in the next round. Kirby, Ramona Bachmann and Gilly Flaherty were on target in Kingston as we dominated a side who have regularly reached the latter stages of the competition, and Ji So-Yun netted in the away leg to secure a comfortable aggregate victory.
Then it was onto Montpellier, when Ji was on target again away from home before Erin Cuthbert doubled our lead with a head. A record crowd for a Chelsea Women’s game at our regular home stadium were then treated to a 3-1 victory at Kingsmeadow, courtesy of a brace from Kirby either side of a Bachmann goal.
As a result of that, England became only the fourth nation to boast two semi-finalists in the same Champions League season, with Manchester City also progressing. We made a dream start against our old adversaries Wolfsburg when Ji opened the scoring at Kingsmeadow early on, but the German side fought back to take a 3-1 lead back to Germany. Despite a game effort from the Blues, our journey came to an end at the hands of Wolfsburg for the third time.
Although we didn’t quite make it to the final in Kiev, two of our players, Ji and Kirby, were named in the Champions League Squad of the Season. The South Korean scored in three consecutive rounds, including the opener in our semi-final against Wolfsburg, while Kirby netted five times in the competition.
CHAMPIONS LEAGUE HISTORY
Chelsea are taking part in the competition for the fourth straight year, with last season’s run to the semi-finals, detailed above, our best showing.
Our first 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 the club's first competitive fixture at Stamford Bridge.
SECOND LEG DETAILS
The home game will be at Kingsmeadow on Wednesday 26 September, kick-off 7.30pm. Tickets for this match are on general sale now, priced as follows: adults £6, juniors (under-20) £3, seniors (over-65) £3.