Ahead of tonight’s massive Women’s Champions League match between Chelsea Women and Lyon Feminin, Emma Hayes has recalled the big impression the French side’s manager Sonia Bompastor made when they worked together in America and explained what we will need to do to recover from Sunday’s defeat by beating the European champions.
Our opponents Lyon have established themselves as the dominant team in European football in recent years, lifting the Women’s Champions League trophy six times since 2016, including last season’s double success of European triumph and French league crown under current manager Sonia Bompastor and her assistant Camille Abily, who amassed more than 300 international caps for France between them during their playing careers.
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Bompastor is someone Hayes knows well from before they were both Champions League managers, when they worked together in the USA. Back in 2010, Hayes was on the coaching staff at Washington Freedom in the Women’s Professional Soccer championship, with Bompastor part of the newly formed American team's star-studded squad, and the current Lyon boss clearly made a big impression.
‘What a brilliant player, honestly,’ recalled Hayes. ‘An unbelievable left-back with an unbelievable wand of a left boot. I managed to coach her in a team that had Homare Sawa and Abby Wambach. She was just a cultured, brilliant footballer that’s very quiet, cheeky, funny – the media might not always see that about her.
‘But it’s of no surprise to me that her and Camille have done well working together and I said to her at the end of the game last week: “round one, I’ll see you back at Stamford Bridge next week”.
‘This will be a tough match and we both have a lot of respect for each other and it’s one that I’m looking forward to even more.’
Nowadays, both Hayes and Bompastor are managers at the highest level of the game with a history of success and ambitions to win more silverware, having claimed five trophies between them last season alone.
However, the Chelsea manager believes the task of keeping the top teams at the top is only getting harder, as shown by the way we have managed to reel in the once-invincible Lyon over the years, culminating in our statement 1-0 win over them in the first leg of this quarter-final in France last week.
‘Across the professional game in general, it doesn’t matter if it’s domestic or European, there’s much more parity across the board. I think this year more than ever, domestically and in the Champions League. This is something we’ve all wanted for the game, so it’s a good sign for the game.’
There have been further examples of the leading women’s sides not getting things all their own way this season, with Lyon suffering a humbling 5-1 defeat to Arsenal in the Champions League group stage and, more recently, our own setback in the Women’s Super League on Sunday, when we were beaten 2-0 away at Manchester City.
For our part, though, Hayes has no concerns that her players will be in the right frame of mind to bounce straight back on the biggest stage, as we look to pick up where we left off in France and convert our narrow advantage from the first leg against Lyon into a place in the Champions League semi-finals.
‘I think as always this is a group that responds really well from the back of a defeat and I have nothing but good things to say about the quality in training yesterday,’ she continued. ‘I thought the intensity was outstanding and the execution of the details we’d asked for was first-class from the group.
‘We have to have the right mentality to begin with and we have to be brave. You have to appreciate that their record speaks for itself, but it’s important for us as a team to impose ourselves, be aggressive in the right moments, be positive in everything we do on and off the ball and seek the opportunity that’s there in front of us. I know the entire dressing room is very much looking forward to it.’
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