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Emma Hayes: Chelsea not overthinking semi-final against ‘world-class’ Barcelona

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 19 Apr 2024

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Emma Hayes insists Chelsea have not overanalysed “world-class” Barcelona ahead of their Champions League clash on Saturday.

Chelsea have travelled to Catalonia for the first leg of their semi-final 12 months on from the two clubs meeting at the same stage of the competition.

Barcelona prevailed 2-1 on aggregate on that occasion before overcoming Wolfsburg in Eindhoven to lift the trophy for the second time in three years.

Chelsea boss Hayes, speaking ahead ahead of this weekend’s first leg at Estadi Olimpic Lluis Companys, said: “Barcelona have been the top team in Europe in recent years.

“Results have suggested that, they are world champions and European champions, but this is a football match and there’s two legs.

“Our job is to get ourselves in a position where we can come here and give them competition.

“You have to be in it to compete for it and you know that you’re going to face a team like Barcelona at some stage, and it happens to be at the semi-finals.

“We understand the team, we understand the opponent, and we respect them. They are world class and have unbelievable players.

“We’ve had a game Wednesday and we’ve only had the one training session today (Friday) so we’re not overthinking or overanalysing anything.”

Chelsea have never won the Women’s Champions League with their best performance being a final appearance in 2021 when Barcelona thrashed them 4-0.

Arsenal are the only English club to win the trophy, a distant 17 years ago in 2007.

“We just have to keep building on our experiences in Europe,” said Hayes. “No player needs motivation to play this game.

“Next week we get a little more time together on the grass to work on things between the two games, based on the learnings.

“For this game we have to keep doing the good things that we’ve been doing throughout Europe this year.”

Chelsea have received a double boost with England pair Millie Bright and Lauren James available for selection.

Club captain Bright has not played since November because of a knee injury, while James sat out Wednesday’s 3-0 victory over Aston Villa in the Women’s Super League.

Hayes said: “I always come from a tactical perspective, first and foremost, from what the needs are for that game.

“Of course, when you play three games directly after an international break, within a seven-day period, you have to utilise the squad.

“We certainly know that no matter the team we put out, we’re highly competitive and Wednesday demonstrated that. So many players came in and added much-needed energy.

“It’s not just the personnel, it’s about structures.

“When you’re playing against an opponent who’s going to have over 70 per cent of the ball, they’re going to have control of the ball and the game in that regard, how you defend spaces is important.”

Chelsea have confirmed the departure of Germany goalkeeper Ann-Katrin Berger to NJ/NY Gotham FC of the National Women’s Soccer League.

Berger, 33, made 114 appearances in five years at Chelsea and leaves the club having won four WSL titles, three FA Cups, two Conti Cups, one Community Shield and a Golden Glove.

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