As long as Chelsea can avoid Wolfsburg, they can undoubtedly go very far. Emma Hayes’ side had been knocked out by the German powerhouse in each of the last three years of the UEFA Women’s Champions League, the only three years in which Chelsea have competed in Europe’s premier competition for women’s teams.
Last season that happened in the semifinals, after Chelsea had vanquished Bayern Munich, FC Rosengård, and Montpellier. The year before in the Round of 32 and the year before in the Round of 16. So far this season, no Wolfsburg. Chelsea came through the Round of 32 with a comprehensive 11-0 aggregate demolishing of SFK 2000 Sarajevo, and will now take on Fiorentina, who finished third in the Italian women’s league last season. The first leg will take place during the upcoming international break.
We will play Fiorentina in the Champions League round of 16! pic.twitter.com/nmMGsPM0Ua— Chelsea FC Women (@ChelseaFCW) October 1, 2018
It was an historic season for Chelsea FCW last year, winning the Super League and FA Cup Double and even going unbeaten in the league. Manager Emma Hayes and leading goalscorer Fran Kirby may have been overlooked for FIFA awards, but certainly not for a lack of trying or, in fact, a lack of success.
It’s been a bit of a slow start to this season for them however, with three consecutive scoreless draws to open the league campaign before a 2-0 win over Brighton this past weekend got them back on track. That said, Chelsea are unbeaten so far this season in all competitions, and are certainly going strong in the League Cup equivalent (WSL Cup) and the Champions League.
The summer saw plenty of changes to the squad, with captain Katie Chapman retiring and no fewer than three players decamping to newcomers West Ham (Rafferty, Flaherty, and Spencer). Eni Aluko also left (to blaze the trail at Juventus). Chelsea brought in a couple international caliber players in England youngster Jessica Carter and Finland international Adelina Engman. Veteran American Ali Riley (who represents New Zealand) and Wales captain Sophie Ingle were also brought in alongside a new backup/third goalkeeper in Lizzie Durack.
The new signings will take time to settle, which could explain some of the slightly subpar early results. But Chelsea remain a very talented and very dangerous team, especially with Kirby and Ji (both of whom signed new contracts this summer) and Ramona Bachmann pulling the strings and younger players like Beth England (back from her Liverpool loan) and Erin Cuthbert also finding their scoring boots (just not in the league yet).
Chelsea take on Arsenal in a couple weeks, then face Fiorentina at home. Hopefully they will be televised occasions, even, for those of us who can’t make it to the stadium.