Speaking ahead of the first leg of Chelsea Women’s Champions League quarter-final with Lyon, Melanie Leupolz has explained why this is exactly the kind of occasion which motivated her to return to the game after giving birth.

Melanie Leupolz got back into the action with Chelsea Women in January, following a year’s absence after her pregnancy and the birth of her first child, earning widespread praise for the way she has risen to the challenge of competing at the highest level of the sport once again.

However, the challenge doesn’t get much bigger than a Champions League knock-out tie against Lyon, winners of the competition in six of the last seven years, starting with the first leg away in France this evening.

It is a task the midfielder and her Blues team-mates are relishing, though, eager for the opportunity to show their own talents against the reigning European champions.

‘We are really a humble team and we of course have a lot of respect for Lyon,’ said Leupolz. ‘They are serial winners, they have amazing players, but we do as well and of course we want to use the chance to play on this stage to show our mentality and the character of our team, the intensity we have in our squad. We’re really looking forward to the game.

‘These are the games we as athletes work hard for and we want to play on this level and stage. European football is always special, playing under the lights.

‘Of course it was a big goal for me, playing back in the Champions League and helping my team in every game. So of course this was a big goal for me as well.’

In the build-up to this game, the Lyon players have spoken about their expectation of a physical encounter between two of the continent’s top teams, but again it is a challenge the Blues are more than ready for.

‘Our league is in general really physical,’ responded the midfielder. ‘Also in training. I think it’s a big part of English football, so we are used to the physicality and of course European football is sometimes a little bit different.

‘But we have so many experienced players who played a lot on this stage. So I think it’s nothing new. We know it’s a strength of ours so we really want to bring this part into the game and of course also look to possess the ball and to create chances and just to combine all these parts of our game.’

There will also be some familiar faces in the opposition ranks for Leupolz, with Lyon featuring fellow Germany internationals Sara Dabritz and Dzsenifer Marozsan in their squad, but the Blue knows it would be wrong to focus on just two players when there will be so much quality on the pitch.

‘It’s always nice to play against my German international team-mates, but of course it’s much bigger. We play Chelsea against Lyon, there are more players,’ she added.

‘They are good quality players, it’s nice facing them, but like always we are friends off the pitch but not really on the pitch. So I’m really looking forward to seeing them.’

  • The second leg against Lyon is at Stamford Bridge next Thursday 30 March and tickets for the game are on sale now, with prices starting at just £9 for adults and £1 for juniors and seniors.