Chelsea Women and Barcelona Femeni meet today for the first time since the 2021 Women’s Champions League final, an evening that had major ramifications for the Blues according to Emma Hayes.
It was our maiden appearance on the biggest stage, and with the pandemic ongoing was played behind closed doors in Gothenburg on a sunny Swedish spring night. But the mood quickly turned sour as Hayes’s side found themselves 4-0 down within 28 minutes, not helped by an exceptionally unfortunate own goal and then a controversial penalty decision.
Last season Barcelona relinquished their European crown to Lyon, the team we knocked out in the quarter-finals, and Hayes has been considering the journeys both us and the Spaniards have been on since that most recent meeting.
‘Every team evolves,’ she noted.
‘Barca have improved in lots of ways. They’ve developed more experience, changed players, and added different dimensions. Equally so have we. We are more experienced than we were two years ago.
‘I always take any loss as a learning. The learnings from that night were significant for us as a club. You have to have that. You have to go through those moments. I’m pretty certain Magda and I have had 1000 conversations since then about how to keep raising the bar for our team. We have done that.
‘We expect to be in semi-finals. We have had a lot of winning in the last two years, and we’re as prepared as we can be going into the game. I like the feeling of going in with those experiences. We know what to expect. We are better off as a result of that night.’
Hayes mentions Magda Eriksson there and the manager-captain partnership has proven a fruitful one in the past few years with so many trophies coming our way.
Eriksson’s contract is up in the summer and while Hayes didn’t want to discuss that subject ahead of such a huge game, she could still heap praise on the impact our Swedish skipper has had on Chelsea Women.
‘I would be here all day to describe everything Magda has done for this football club, and for me as our captain,’ enthused Hayes.
‘Together we have built a team that has competed on all fronts. I know every step of the journey we have been on, side by side, to push this team to where it is.’