Both manager Emma Hayes and captain Karen Carney faced the media at Cobham on Thursday afternoon for a press conference on the eve of the hosting of Paris St-Germain at Kingsmeadow in the Women’s Champions League…
Chelsea Women’s home stadium in Kingston-upon-Thames is where the big domestic action is this week and having reached the semi-finals of the Champions League for the first time last season, Emma Hayes and her players will match that achievement if they see off twice runners-up PSG over two legs, beginning with the home match for which a big crowd is expected but tickets are available.
With Chelsea having become Champions League regulars in recent seasons, and Hayes as a coach and Karen Carney as a player both winners of a previous incarnation of the competition during their Arsenal days, it is clear they have great affection for European football.
‘You want to test yourself against the best and we want to see how we rank against the best teams in France,’ Hayes told the reporters at the training ground.
‘I have been involved in top-level competitions for a long time and the Champions League is the one I enjoy the most.’
Carney agreed with her boss. ‘It is the top competition in Europe,’ said the 31-year-old. Everyone wants to be a part of it and to win it and we are no different. It is a fantastic showcase, my favourite competition and amazing to be part of. We are buzzing to be in it. We are representing England as the only English side left so we are very excited.’
Hayes spoke of Chelsea being part way through a six- to seven-year plan to reach the upper end of the women’s game and noted that PSG are probably working with more than twice the budget she has available, but she added that does not make them twice the team.
‘For us the focus is to get the most out of our group knowing we have experience and quality throughout the squad. You’d be hard pressed to show me a better squad. We can play a number of different ways based on the quality we have, we are much better at that than we were 12 months ago. The cumulative experience is what gets you close to [winning] this competition, we don’t fear PSG, we respect them but we know the personnel we have on any day will hurt many teams in Europe.’
Carney explained that the team has learnt from past experiences in this competition and know the key is to stay in the game when under pressure, rather than risk going several goals down.
‘We are now more equipped,’ she said. ‘This group is the most mentally strong I have been part of and the most experienced. We have been building for this type of game.’
‘We don’t fear anyone,’ declared Hayes, ‘and I can quite comfortable say at Kingsmeadow in a Champions League game, I don’t struggle to get my team up for this game!
‘We have collective experience and disappointments that I expect to see that we have learnt from. I demand a lot in terms of progress in this competition and I know that everyone loves what we do and there is no better night than playing the best teams in the Champions League. It is our only route if we want to be involved next season and I am sure it will be a cracker of a game for the neutral. For us it is something we prepare for all year so it is just another game.
‘The team has got accustomed to playing big games and not just this season. For us it is just another game. We have had to prepare for a league game, a cup game and now a Champions League game so the preparation has to be consistent.
‘The team much differently from the past has been showing its versatility, adaptability and experience, and this is a game that is not about preparing for in this week, we have been preparing for this all season.’