EMMA HAYES reckons Chelsea’s rivals in Europe are revelling in the pressure being placed on her team to win the Champions League.
And the Blues boss hopes to see the competition become as big a draw as the men’s version with its expansion next season.
Emma Hayes says Chelsea are looking forward to taking on Atletico MadridCredit: PA:Press Association
The WSL leaders take on Atletico Madrid – who have won three of their last six games in Spain’s top-flight.
It will be the first time the Blues have ever gone up against the LaLiga Women’s team, who sit third in their division.
They knocked Manchester City out of the competition in the last 16 in the 2019-20 season and the term before.
Hayes, 44, said: “Everyone around Europe is loving the kind of pressure being put on Chelsea, the conversation being out around this year, our team and what’s expected of them, while Man City are not being spoken about.
“The realities are, the more you ask me the same question, the more I’ll say the same thing. Because it’s just another game.
“To approach it any differently is to give it more weight than necessary.
“I’ve learnt by years of mistakes that to do it any different means you’re probably thinking about the next game rather than one coming up.
“We have to make sure the only thing I’m thinking about is Atletico. I think every game is difficult
“It’s certainly the tie that we wanted to play, it was the opponent we wanted.
Chelsea will face an Atletico Madrid side that includes Brazil striker LudmilaCredit: Getty Images – Getty
“We have full respect for the work they’ve done especially knocking out Man City in the last two years, but we don’t underestimate them.
“To be honest with you I’d rather have a real tough test and see where we are at this stage of the season than not, so we’re just really looking forward to it.”
The clash with Atletico will see Chelsea come up against a familiar face in ex-Blues stopper Hedvig Lindahl.
And the former Wolfsburg ace will be aiming to halt her old side’s progress in the competition.
The Sweden goalkeeper made 45 Blues appearances between 2015 and 2019 winning a league title and two FA Cups.
And the former Chelsea star – who Hayes describes as a “legend” – helped the club qualify for the Champions League in 2018.
Hayes added: “She came to this football club at the top of her game, and I think transformed our results on the pitch.
“She will go down as a legend of the football club for the contribution she’s made to the trophies we’ve won.
“I never underestimate Hedvig Lindahl. I know her qualities inside and out. But my job is to make sure she’s on the wrong end tomorrow evening.”
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Ex-Blues keeper Hedvig Lindahl is looking forward to playing her old team-matesCredit: Getty Images – Getty
Millie Bright reckons Chelsea are confident of getting a good result against Atletico and her old team-mate Lindahl.
And the Blues centre-back, who recovered from an injury that saw her withdraw from England’s international camp, says the champs will be ruthless with their opponents.
Bright added: “I do feel like we’re ready now. I think we’ve shown that in the league.
“We’ve shown how ruthless we can be, how strong defensively we can be, but you have to prepare for the game that’s in front of you.
“We’ve prepared very well for this, as we do for every game, but it’s the one we wanted, so we’re just excited to get out there and get going.”
Next season’s competition will see the introduction of a 16-team group stage that will replace the current knockout round of 16.
Millie Bright is confident Chelsea can beat Atletico MadridCredit: Getty Images – Getty
And the top six-ranked nations in the contest, which include England, now have three qualifying spots from their best leagues rather than two.
Hayes added: “I’m happy to think that three teams will qualify from England, I think that will add even more kudos to our league.
“Women’s football is here to stay and it’s about time we continue to put even more into it on a European level to make it as marketable a product as we do the men’s competition.”
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Source: Soccer - thesun.co.uk