Emma Hayes says that, pressure or no pressure, she can’t imagine anywhere she would rather be than in the home dugout at Stamford Bridge on Thursday evening as she prepares her Chelsea Women side to take on holders Lyon in the second leg of our Women’s Champions League quarter-final.
Chelsea Women take a narrow 1-0 lead into the second leg of the tie after Guro Reiten’s early goal in the first game in France, but the tie is far from over as we host the side which has been crowned European champions in six of the last seven seasons.
That means Emma Hayes won’t be underestimating the size of the challenge which still awaits her team on Thursday evening if we are to finish the job and book our place in the semi-finals, but insists these are exactly the kind of high-quality, high-stakes matches she and her players work so hard to be a part of.
‘We know what to expect, they’re the champions of Europe over a long period of time for a very good reason,’ said Hayes. ‘It’s not like we’re playing a team that’s not used to being in that position. We know the threats, but we’ve worked hard over a long period of time to be ready for them.
‘We want these situations, we want to be in this game tomorrow and we want to be in a position where we can impose ourselves and our game in our stadium the way that we want to.
‘That’s the aim. That’s what we live for in our environment. We want to be in the positions where we’re competing. The flip side is that I don’t want to be sitting at home watching these games from outside of it or sitting in a position where we can’t compete to win the league or the FA Cup. We are exactly where we want to be.
‘We have a lot of experience too and I think it’s important for the team as a whole to demonstrate that, particularly in the right moments.’
Of course, the eventual goal is to go all the way to the Champions League final and lift the trophy for the first time in Chelsea Women’s history, but Hayes isn’t getting ahead of herself as she knows there is still a lot of work to do just to get past our next opponents.
‘I want to be in the biggest game so there’s no doubt that’s a motivation for me, but my motivation isn’t led by one single thing. To be the very best at something, you can’t just talk about it, you have to do it every day, on the training pitch, in every game, and my challenge to the team tomorrow is demonstrate everything that you have worked so hard on to put this club in this position.’
The Blues manager also provided an update on the availability of centre-back Millie Bright, who went off with an injury in the first game and missed Sunday’s loss at Manchester City, refusing to rule the England international out of a return against Lyon at the Bridge.
‘We trained without Millie today,’ added Hayes. ‘She’s the only player we trained without, everyone else trained today. We’ve got time until tomorrow so we’re just maximising as much time as we can, but she wasn’t in training today.’
With or without Millie Bright, the Blues are set to be cheered on by a record crowd for a Women’s Champions League game at Stamford Bridge. There is still time to join the more than 13,000 supporters who have already bought tickets for the decisive second leg of our quarter-final against Lyon at Stamford Bridge on Thursday 30 March, which kicks off at 8pm. Tickets start at £9 for adults and £1 for juniors and seniors, and are available now.