News

Maren Mjelde on how Chelsea Women can beat Lyon in the Champions League

Not many players know how it feels to eliminate Lyon from the Women's Champions League, but Maren Mjelde does.

After her last-gasp winner against PSG in the previous round, the Norwegian international remembers a similarly decisive contribution against the Blues' semi-final opponents.

There is simply no dressing this up: if Chelsea Women are to reach the final of the Champions League for the first time, a near-perfect performance for 180 minutes is what is needed to eliminate one of the greatest sides to play the sport.

Lyon are our opponents in a two-legged semi-final which begins this Sunday in France (live on our official app), before the tie concludes at Kingsmeadow a week later, when kids and adults can attend for free.

Five-time winners of the competition and currently on a run of three in a row, OL have been unstoppable in Europe since 2015, when Paris Saint-Germain eliminated them in the last 32. We, of course, beat PSG in the last round by the narrowest margins; this past weekend, Lyon thrashed them 5-0 to make a 13th straight French title a foregone conclusion.

With all that in mind, why should the Blues bother turning up at the weekend? What hope is there of causing what would be a huge upset against a club who reached this stage by comfortably beating a Wolfsburg side who have eliminated us in all three of our previous Champions League campaign?
 

Just try telling any of that to Maren Mjelde. After six months on the sidelines, the Norwegian returned to the starting line-up last month and it was is if she had never been gone. Four games into her comeback, she produced one of the most memorable personal moments of her career, popping up at the back stick in stoppage time to fire us past PSG at the end of a tumultuous second leg in the French capital.

For a player who had spent most of her career before coming to Chelsea 'feeling like a number two', due to the number of runner-up medals she had in her collection, there is simply no quit in her. Mind over matter is her mantra and, with a long injury lay-off behind her and those previous near-misses still swirling around her head, Mjelde requires no further motivation.

'That's what you do as a footballer, and it's what I did last year,' said the 29-year-old of her ability to channel disappointment in the right way. 'I hadn't been in a team that had won the big trophies before, I always came second – in the league and cup in both Germany and Norway, plus in the Euros with the national team.

'I was always runner-up and I always felt like a No2 before I came to Chelsea. Now I know the experience of winning, which can change your mind a bit and help you to win games which are tight, or when things aren't going well. I think that's a strength you can build when you start winning games.

'Football is a lot about mentality and the way your mind works. You just have to be positive in your mind and believe you can win – always focus on what you can do as a team. It's not easy, but I feel that's something I've learned a lot from being injured. You can work a lot with your mind when you're not able to play. It's helping me, it is.'

There is no doubt we will need a lot more than a strong mentality to get past Lyon, though, and Mjelde has no doubts this is the biggest test we have ever faced at this football club.

 

'They have been the best team in Europe for many years now and they have quality players all over the pitch,' she added.

'It'll be hard, but when you reach the semi-final of the Champions League you are so close to the final, and the thought of playing in that is incredible. It's the biggest thing you can do as a club player.

'We got to the semis last year, a historical moment for the club to do it for the first time, but we were not close to getting to the final. Wolfsburg was a lot better than us, but it gave us a good experience. We've been there now, we've played a semi-final, so that will help us a lot this year.'

Of course, it could have been the German side for a fourth year running had they got past Lyon. Instead, it's the first time the Blues will come up against the French giants – but it won't be a new experience for Mjelde.
 

In fact, unlike most who come up against OL, she can draw upon a positive experience ahead of this tie, having not only been part of the Turbine Potsdam side which eliminated them six years ago, but also the scorer of the tie-winning goal.

On that occasion, they found themselves 2-0 down on aggregate in the second leg, which was away from home, having conceded early on. Mjelde's match-winning penalty came in the 73rd minute to complete a remarkable comeback.

'It's one of my best memories on the pitch,' she said. 'I was lucky enough to be the penalty taker for the club, and my goal meant we beat them 2-1 away from home and we knocked them out.'

So, if a penalty is awarded at some point across the next 180 minutes of football...

'…I'm not really the penalty taker here,' she interjects, followed by a hearty laugh. 'I was at Potsdam, and obviously I have good memories of that. It didn't take us to the final, though, as we lost to Wolfsburg in the semi-finals. This will be my third semi and I really want to go to the final this year. I feel it's about time.'

'In Norway, just like you guys do, we say third time lucky. Hopefully that's the case, but it won't be luck, it will be because we're better than Lyon! That's what I hope happens, but they will be so tough.'
 

MORE FROM CHELSEA