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AS YET, no club side has managed to win both the men’s and women’s Champions League trophies but this season three of the last four teams remaining in the women’s tournament are former European champions in the men’s game.
The problem for Barcelona, Bayern and Chelsea is that the fourth team are all-conquering Olympique Lyonnais, the only five-time winners of the women’s Champions League and going for a fourth successive European title, something that has not been achieved in the game since Real Madrid won the first five men’s European Cups at the dawn of inter-continental club competition over half a century ago.
Four-and-a-half years have passed since Lyon were last eliminated from the tournament but ahead of their semi-final first leg against them at the Groupama Stadium, venue of this summer’s World Cup final, Chelsea manager Emma Hayes would not be losing any sleep over the prospect.
“No, I’m more afraid that I’m not going to get enough sleep because my 10-month-old baby is with me tonight.”
With Arsenal and Manchester City already certain of finishing in the top two positions in the FA WSL, winning the Champions League this season is Chelsea’s only route into next season’s competition as well as offering last year’s double winners their only remaining hope of silverware following last week’s FA Cup semi-final defeat away to City.
For Hayes, however, the tie will hold no fears. “We don’t take part in this sport because of fear. These are the games we want. I respect them. They are the best team in Europe. They have demonstrated that over many years.
“We are at a level now where we can get into a position where we can fight to get into the final. We are not the favourites. We are not expected to go through. There’s no pressure on my team … but we want this game.”
Having been eliminated in each of the last three seasons by the same team, VfL Wolfsburg, Chelsea will now face the German side’s conquerors hoping to go one stage further than last season’s semi-final and thus becoming the first English team to reach the final since Arsenal in 2007.
To do that Hayes is prepared to win by any means against a team with a far greater depth of resources than her own.
“We need a bit of luck, but you make that. To make that, you need the experience, I believe.
“We’re talking about a team whose budget is significantly bigger than any other team in Europe. They have won the French championship for 12 years in a row.
“This is a team that doesn’t face much competition so I’m not going to pretend that we’re going to do it in a pretty way.
“If we are to progress to the final, we have to have to hang in there. If you get the organisation right and you keep the spirits high and we’re fresh, then we have enough quality to cause them problems too.”
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