Karen Carney: Chelsea have ‘fantastic opportunity’ to reach Women’s Champions League final
After five consecutive years of Lyon lifting the Women’s Champions League, there will be a new name on the trophy this season and Sunday’s semi-final line-up is wide open.
Fittingly, the league leaders from England, France, Germany and Spain have all reached the last four and all of them have the capabilities to go all the way for the first time.
No British side has reached the final since Arsenal’s triumph in 2007 but Chelsea have a “fantastic opportunity” to get the final as they take on Bayern Munich, according to former England, Chelsea and Arsenal midfielder Karen Carney, starting with the first leg in Germany.
Chelsea are in the semi-finals for the third time, having lost narrowly to seven-time champions Lyon in 2019 after losing 5-1 on aggregate to Wolfsburg in 2018’s semis, but this term the Londoners beat five-time finalists Wolfsburg by that same scoreline and are chasing a potential quadruple of major silverware.
“Chelsea have a different mentality and their manager Emma Hayes is in beast mode at the moment, she has got the bit between her teeth and she’s so focused,” Carney told Telegraph Sport.
Sunday’s other first leg sees Lyon’s conquerors Paris Saint-Germain host a Barcelona side who have won all 24 of the league games this season and knocked out Manchester City in the last eight, and Carney believes Chelsea are in “the right half” of the draw.
“The other semi-final is a very juicy semi-final. Bayern are a good team and I mean them no disrespect, but Chelsea would much rather face Bayern than PSG or Barcelona because they both looked very, very good in their respective quarter-finals,” she said.
“They’ve got a really fantastic opportunity to get to the final, and then when you’re in the final, anything can happen.”
Bayern Munich head coach Jens Scheuer noted Chelsea’s investment in recent seasons and said: “Chelsea wants to become a powerhouse in women’s football and that’s what they’ve been developing towards, so it’s going to be a great challenge for us.
“But it won’t be any picnic for them, it won’t be a walk in the park for them, they’ll have to prepare very well and we’ll see who makes the final.”
Bayern’s Germany midfielder Lina Magull added: “Chelsea have great players in their ranks, especially in their attack, they’re very fast, have great technique, and they’ve built up their system, it’s a complete team.”
Among the pacey strikers Magull is referring to is Australia superstar Sam Kerr, who has thrived leading the line for Chelsea this season. She is the Women’s Super League’s leading goalscorer this term with 18 goals in 20 WSL games, and has netted eight times in her past five Chelsea appearances in all competitions.
“Tactically, you can get at the two centre-backs of Bayern, and Sam Kerr could have a field day,” Carney added. “Her movement’s exceptional, she plays on the shoulder, and Bayern will be very, very fearful of her and her current form.”
Another of Chelsea’s biggest threats will be England forward Fran Kirby, who has been widely tipped to win the WSL Player of the Year award.
Among Chelsea’s longest-serving players, she was part of the side that lost to Lyon in 2019 but knows they are better equipped for big games now, adding: “It all comes with experience, with how many times we’ve been in this position.
“We’ve grown in belief and we’ve grown in quality. You learn a lot from failure, defeat and feeling hurt. We’ve just grown up within this tournament and found out that we belong here and we belong in these big games.”
Hayes had referred to her side’s quarter-final win over Wolfsburg – who had knocked Chelsea out on three previous occasions – as probably her “favourite” win at Chelsea after “waiting nine years” for that moment, but the goal remains to be European champions.
However, asked if not winning the Champions League would be a failure, Hayes replied: “Failure is a really strong word. I’d call it a disappointment, not a failure, a failure is not being in the position [in the first place].
“To be in with a shot of competing for a Champions League final is what you prepare for. We have a 50-50 chance of making it, I’ll take those odds. If you’d have offered them up at the beginning of the season, if you’d have offered up being in the position we are, top of the league, winning the [WSL League] Cup, I’d have taken it.
“You don’t take anything for granted when you play in the European game, because it’s so different, sizing each other up takes a game. You cannot win the tie in the first leg, but you can definitely lose your way out of it.”
BT Sport has live coverage of the Uefa Women’s Champions League semi-finals, including Bayern Munich Women vs Chelsea Women from 3.30pm on Sunday, April 25 on BT Sport 2.