Chelsea face major UWCL test in quarter-final against defending champions Lyon
Chelsea face title-holders Lyon in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final tie on Wednesday evening at the OL Stadium as the Blues continue their hunt for European glory.
The match-up is enticing, with the eight-time European winners representing nothing short of a litmus test for Chelsea’s Champions League credentials as they bid to become the first English side to claim the title since Arsenal 2007.
Chelsea can take confidence from their group stage performances, in which they touted an undefeated record against Real Madrid, minnows Vllaznia, and last season’s semi-finalists Paris Saint-Germain, who have gotten the better of Lyon this season in the French top-flight.
Emma Hayes’ side have eclipsed last year’s disappointing European campaign where they failed to progress from the group stages on goal difference to Juventus. In their four trips to the competition’s quarter-finals, Chelsea have never gone out in the last eight.
Yet, history heavily favours Lyon, who have one 12 of their last 13 Champions League quarter-finals. And following their surprise 5-1 defeat to Arsenal to open the group stages this season, the serial champions have returned emphatically to winning ways after welcoming back a slew of players from injuries, the impact of which was underlined as Lyon claimed a 1-0 win over Arsenal in the reverse fixture.
And Hayes and co. will have to prepare for a heady contest at OL Stadium. The Blues last shared a pitch with Europe’s best during the 2018/19 campaign as an engrossing and dramatic two-legged semi-final draw slipped ever so cruelly away in the second leg.
Lyon seized a 2-1 victory in the first leg in France, but Erin Cuthbert’s goal teed up an enticing return leg at Kingsmeadow.
And while Eugenie Le Sommer’s deflected shot threatened to put the game beyond the Blues, Ji So-Yun delivered a superb free-kick to bring the game back level. Karen Carney smacked the post as Chelsea continued to push for extra time but a berth in the final ultimately fell to Lyon as they won 3-2.
Five years on, Chelsea remain in search of European glory, and while the domestic game has become something of a playground for Hayes’ side, Chelsea midfielder Sophie Ingle emphasised the importance the domestic champions place on finally attaining success in Europe this season.
“The Champions League is the next aim for us as a club,” she told the club’s website. “Domestically we have won a lot over the last three, four, five years. Now we have to try and go one better and be champions of Europe, which is a tough ask because the women’s game is growing massively.
“We know there are no easy games now at European level.”
Kick-off for Wednesday evening’s semi-final is 5:45pm UK time.